Tourism ministry names Welpe as top int'l agent of '99

NASSAU -- Ask Greg Welpe what his favorite island group is and chances are he'll say the Bahamas.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism chose Welpe, leisure sales manager at High Tech Travel in Dallas, as its 1999 international travel agent of the year.

Welpe and many others in the tourism industry were honored at the Bahamas' fifth annual Cacique Awards ceremony held here.

Welpe, a travel agent since 1984, has actively sold the Bahamas for the last three years. A graduate of the Bahamas Tourism Institute program, he credited the referrals and sales generated by that program as contributing factors in his winning the award. According to Welpe, BTI specialists benefit from referrals and regular updates given by the tourist board.

"Another great benefit is that potential clients can access me from the Bahamas Web page as well as shopping, honeymoon, sailing and dive information," he said.

Welpe said he was impressed by the manner in which Bahamian officials handled news of Hurricane Floyd, with continual updates about the damage and recovery process.

Last year, Welpe sent 100 visitors to the Bahamas -- 50 land clients and 50 cruise passengers. So far this year, he has booked 200 rooms at Atlantis for a car dealership convention and a small wedding party at Sandals Royal Bahamian.

Welpe visited Atlantis last November where he stayed in the Royal Towers. He also has visited Eleuthera; Harbour Island; Nassau; Paradise Island, and Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay.

The biggest obstacle Welpe said he faces when selling the Bahamas is lack of airlift from Dallas. He has to route clients through Miami or Atlanta.

If nonstop scheduled or charter service were available, Welpe said he could generate more Bahamas business.

"Travelers can fly nonstop to Hawaii or Cancun, Mexico, from Dallas, but they have to change planes when they go to the Bahamas," he said.

Dallas has not had charter flights to the Bahamas in 14 years, according to Welpe.

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