Tour ops: Interest in region is up

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NEW YORK -- Sometimes a tour operator can stumble upon a good find.

Such was the case with Mayflower Tours.

"It started when we had a Canadian Rockies program that originated in Seattle," said Mayflower president John Stachnik. "The comment cards that came back said, 'We really liked Seattle. We'd like to spend more time in that area.'"

So, Mayflower, which has had a Pacific Coast Journey tour (Seattle to San Francisco) for the past four years, launched a tour called Washington State and the Cascades.

Mayflower Tours' clients said they were interested in Seattle, above, so the operator launched the seven-night Washington State and the Cascades itinerary in response to clients' requests. The seven-night program includes a tour of the Boeing factory, the North Cascades National Park, the National Historic Reserve at Fort Casey, Deception Pass State Park, Ebey's Landing, Ohme Gardens, the Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village, a cruise of Lake Chelan and a float trip on the Skyomish River.

It is priced at $1,268 per person, double, land only.

"Travelers are always looking for something new," Stachnik said. "New England is so wonderful, but people have been doing it for 80 years on an organized basis. We're finding that a lot of people have not toured the northwest."

Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest is old hat for Tauck World Discovery, which has been taking passengers to the region for 35 years.

But recently Tauck also has found a tightening of focus on Oregon and Washington, according to Kendra St. John, a Tauck spokeswoman and a guide on Tauck's Pacific Northwest tours.

"We used to have a tour that went all the way from San Francisco to Calgary (Alberta), then we broke it into two smaller pieces, San Francisco to Seattle and Seattle to Calgary," she said. "Now we are seeing the people who want to go a long distance have dropped off. Now, people want to focus more in-depth within an area.

"People from other parts of the country were always amazed. They knew the Canadian Rockies were going to be spectacular, they just didn't know that Oregon and Washington were going to be so wonderful."

Meanwhile, Robert Brennan, president of Seattle-based Brennan Vacations, said interest in the Pacific Northwest is being boosted by a trend to travel domestically.

"There is also more interest in it now because people are wanting to stay close to home," said Brennan. "There is still this uncertainty. People are finding different things to do in North America. Not that they don't still want to do Europe, but they are thinking they'll wait another year."

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