Hotels in Hannover expected to fill up quickly for Germany's world's fair

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NEW YORK -- Although it won't begin until the middle of next year and heavy promotion of the event hasn't yet started, Germany's Expo 2000 world's fair in Hannover already is drawing interest from travel agents who expect to send groups there.

The Expo 2000 will run from June 1 through Oct. 31.

"Advance ticket sales are going well on the group side," said Lynne Boback, marketing manager for DER Travel in Rosemont, Ill. "The FIT side for Expo 2000 has not materialized yet."

At General Tours, which has been designated the general sales agent for the event, "we have been selling to groups, through AAA and Carlson Wagonlit, blocks of space that include Expo 2000 and in many cases the Passion Play in Oberammergau, in combination," said a company spokesman.

General Tours released a 24-page brochure that includes all its products with an Expo 2000 component, the spokesman said, and only recently started a limited promotion through small ads in the New York Times and USA Today.

Some agents have called for information but haven't yet placed firm orders, he said. "We had one agent from California who was looking for 1,500 tickets because she was planning on marketing it herself," he said.

He added that while there are plenty of tickets available for the fair, agents who want to send clients there should also start thinking about hotel space, since the event will consume most of the lodging base for miles around.

"That will definitely be a concern because it's being offered in a medium-size city that does not have a large pool of hotel rooms," the spokesman said. "A lot of people will be staying in the general vicinity, within an hour of Hannover. As with most cities in Germany, it's easily accessible by train, so that's not a problem."

He said General Tours' own programs will house clients not in Hannover but in the nearby towns of Hamelin, Braunschweig and Goslar, transporting them to the fair by train.

Hannover officials anticipate that the Expo 2000 could bring as many as 40 million visitors to the city next year, so the city is expanding its airport and building a rail station at its fairgrounds, site of the Expo.

The train station being built at the Hannover Fairgrounds will be able to accommodate Inter-City Express (ICE) and other high-speed trains that will be running into the city from within Germany and beyond.

Organizers expect 200 trains a day, carrying 100,000 passengers, to travel to Hannover from major German cities. Meanwhile, a third terminal under construction at Hannover's airport is larger than the existing terminals and will give the airport a 20-gate capacity.

General Tours has set up a toll-free number for Expo inquiries at (800) 469-5186. DER can be reached at (888) 337-7350. Their respective Web sites at www.generaltours.com and www.dertravel.com also have expo product information.

Day tickets, good from 9 a.m. until closing time at night, are selling at $50 for adults, $40 for children ages 6 to 18; children age 5 and younger are admitted free, and students up to age 28 are admitted at the children's rate.

An afternoon ticket, valid on weekdays from 3 p.m. to closing, costs $40 for adults, $35 for children; an evening ticket, valid from 7 p.m. to closing, is priced at $25 for adults, $20 for children.

Multiple-day tickets, valid for two to seven days' admission, sell for $46 per day for adults, $39 for children. Groups will receive a set number of free tickets based on the total number purchased.

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