GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- A number of operators sell commissionable
tours that focus on elements of the 19th century Lewis and Clark
Expedition. They don't necessarily operate a lot of tours, but they
can certainly be focused.
Take Rocky Mountain Discovery Tours in Missoula. Company
president Scott Sproull, as a college student in Illinois, first
came to Montana while writing a school paper on Lewis and Clark
"and never went back."
In fact, he has been a retailer -- selling shoes and leather
goods -- for three decades but returned to his hobby in 2000,
reviewing his subject, teaching a few classes and leading a few
The tours have since become a full-time occupation. Sproull had
three itineraries in 2003 and will operate the same three, and
maybe a fourth, itinerary this year.
The trips, operated on coaches or vans, depending on group size,
are commissionable at 10%. Other, custom trips, for groups, are
priced differently and don't include standard commissions.
Lewis-and-Clark-themed trips are a very specialized niche, Sproull
said there is "not a lot of demand" and so "it helps to have agents
out there pushing for you."
However, he thinks interest in the subject and trips will grow
during, and even after, the bicentennial now under way, because so
many more Americans will be aware of the possibilities.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition from the mouth of the Missouri
River to the Pacific spanned the years 1804 through part of 1806;
bicentennial events were scheduled beginning in 2003, as well, to
commemorate key milestones in the preparation for the long
Another tour operator, Andy Ambrose, is director of sales and
marketing for his family's business, New Orleans-based Stephen
Ambrose Tours, named for the family patriarch, the late Stephen
Ambrose, historian and author of "Undaunted Courage."
The company emphasizes historical topics (the Civil War and
World War II) and so, this year, because of a heavy focus on the
60th anniversary of D-Day, will have only one Lewis and Clark
Andy Ambrose said this itinerary is among a number that had been
planned by, and at some point, accompanied by the senior Ambrose;
all those itineraries, he said, pay 10%. "We've had a good working
relationship with agents and that will continue," he predicted.
Another highly focused operation is 4-year-old Odyssey Tours in
Lewiston, Idaho, owned by former travel retailer Becky Cawley. The
company has operated only Lewis and Clark trips and won't go to new
territory until 2005. Odyssey will have two tours this summer and
All are accompanied by Lewis and Clark scholar Clay Jenkinson,
who is also a Chautauqua actor. Cawley said she saw a future in the
Lewis and Clark theme because she grew up along the expedition
route, she loves the outdoors (the expedition was a long camping
trip, after all) and she had the chance to team up with a Lewis and
You can reach the journalist who wrote this article at [email protected].
For more coverage on the Lewis and Clark bicentennial events,
• Tracking Lewis and Clark: 2003 is only the
start (for a general discussion of activities in Montana)
• Region's accommodations include historic
properties (for information on accommodations in Montana)
• Area retailers to roll out commissionable plans
(for information on retailers who are packaging bicentennial
Web great resource for Lewis and Clark travel
he following are resources for
selling travel to Montana and for selling travel focused on Lewis
and Clark bicentennial events:
Bicentennial information on the Web
• Great Falls (Mont.) Chamber of Commerce
• Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, Omaha
• Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Great Falls
• Montana Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission, Helena
• National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, St.
• Travel Montana
Montana housing lists on the Web
• Historic Hotels of the Rockies
• Montana Bed & Breakfast Association
• Montana's Russell Country
• Odyssey Tours, Lewiston, Idaho
Phone: (208) 791-8721
Fax: (208) 798-5101
• Rocky Mountain Discovery Tours, Missoula, Mont.
Phone: (888) 400-0048
• Stephen Ambrose Tours, New Orleans
Phone: (888) 903-3329
• Great Falls Chamber of Commerce, for tours operated by Great
• Collins Mansion B&B, Great Falls
Phone: (406) 452-6798; (877) 452-6798
Fax: (406) 452-6787
• Grand Union Hotel, Fort Benton
Phone: (406) 622-1882; (888) 838-1882
Fax: (406) 622-1882
• Stone School Inn B&B, Valier
Phone: (406) 279-3796
Fax: (406) 279-3233
The preceeding list was compiled by Nadine Godwin.