Knowledgeable Agents Help Promote Spain, Portugal

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NEW YORK -- Plus Ultra Tours, which specializes in deluxe motorcoach itineraries in Spain and Portugal, experienced a "significant" boost in bookings, according to company president Robert Perez.

He credits a number of factors for the increase, including a strong U.S. economy.

"Also, we have a favorable exchange rate of nearly 20% higher than last year, as well as lower air fares," he said.

He also touted the efforts of the Tourist Office of Spain in promoting the country to the American market.

"Spain has been getting more exposure over the last few years and I think it's becoming a viable alternative for people who have done Italy and France and want something new," Perez said.

He also noted travel agents' increased knowledge of Spain.

"I've been doing this for 18 years and I used to have people requesting a hotel room in Madrid near the beach or asking whether the hotels had bathrooms," he said.

"That is no longer the trend."

This year the company designed a number of packages to the Canary Islands and the Costa del Sol.

Combinations with Madrid or Barcelona also are available.

The Canary Islands packages feature stays at a range of hotels and islands as well as several optional tours.

Six-night packages begin at $1,189 per person, double, including air.

Travelers also can explore Costa del Sol, known as Spain's Riviera, from $809 for six nights.

The rate includes nonstop roundtrip air service to Malaga aboard Iberia Airlines, airport transfers, breakfasts and dinners.

Apartment packages also are available.

A two-week Costa del Sol & Tenerife combination package begins at $1,299, including air.

Motorcoach tours from Madrid to such cities in Andalucia as Seville, Granada and Cordoba can include golf at a number of world-class courses.

One course, Valderrama, is the site of the recent Ryder Cup competition.

In addition, Plus Ultra Tours offers independent travel, hotel and resort stays, apartment vacations, fly/drives, air-only programs and golf packages.

The company created a program designed to appeal to travelers interested in ecotourism.

The Green Spain tours focus on the north of Spain.

"Galicia, located in the northern part of Spain, is a very green, mountainous region that is relatively primitive and untouched," he said.

The jewel in the crown of Galicia is the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela, which, Perez said, offers great shopping, renowned cuisine and "one of the nicest paradors in Spain."

"The seafood is so fresh that you can sometimes see it being caught and brought in," he said, adding that his company has received positive feedback from clients who have visited this area.

"Americans especially like the wild horses in this area," he said.

"That and the rough coast, friendly people and little towns have proven popular for people who want to get a feel for nature."

Another trend has been a move toward cultural vacations, particularly for people who already have visited the beaches and other high-profile areas of Spain, Perez said.

"People are starting to want to see the museums and historical areas," he said.

Perez added that the new Guggenheim museum in Bilbao is proving to be a strong tourism draw.

This year Plus Ultra Tours also is offering Spain packages in conjunction with Portugal for travelers who want to visit EXPO '98 in Lisbon.

The World's Fair is set for May 22 to Sept. 30.

In addition to Iberia airlines, the company works with Delta, Air Europa, Continental, US Airways and SpanAir.

Packages are commissionable at up to 17%.

Plus Ultra Tours

Phone: (800) 367-7724 or (718) 278-1818 in New York.

Web: www.spaintours.com

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