Travcoa rolls out trek to Tibet

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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Among Travcoa's 49th Anniversary Collection of Unique Itineraries for 2003 is an Asia tour designed for well-traveled clients.

The 20-night Southeast Tibet and Chinese Minorities program explores some of China's lesser-known regions and provides opportunities for immersion in the cultures of some of its minorities.

All 18 programs in the series include a special event as a centerpiece. The highlight of the Southeast Tibet program is the Khampa Horse Festival in Gyalthang, where Tibetans from remote areas gather to participate in horse racing, horse trading, feasting and celebrating.

With a $10,000 price tag and a nearly three-week duration, it is not a trip for every client, but the program targets a market that has shown itself to be worth cultivating at a time when many markets are soft, according to Travcoa.

"The high-end traveler seems to be the last to be affected [by economic slowdowns]," said Angela Miller, director of marketing. "We tend to have travelers who will keep traveling no matter what ... and sometimes the people you don't expect to be able to travel are the ones who will buy [the package]."

Travcoa's high prices reflect its use of quality hotels and amenities and its all-inclusive programs.

"There are no times when the client has to dig in his pocket and come up with more money," Miller said. "That means that the agent is getting the commission for all the things the client is doing at the destination. So, a client might spend less money with another tour operator, but spend more money at the destination -- for which the agent gets no commission."

All meals are included in the price of the itinerary, but dining arrangements are flexible enough to enable a la carte, room service and dining in restaurants of the clients' own choosing.

The luxury tour operator, founded in 1954, has been rated World's Best Tour Operator by Travel + Leisure magazine for the last seven years.

The land price for the plan is $9,895 per person, double. The itinerary departs May 22. Roundtrip air from the West Coast to Hong Kong is approximately $945 per person, and air fares in China cost another $850.

For more information or reservations, call (800) 992-2003 or visit www.travcoa.com.

The journey, day by day

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Travcoa's Southeast Tibet and Chinese Minorities expedition begins with a look at a collection of folk art created by China's many ethnic groups, followed by a stop at the Hongfu Buddhist Monastery, during a visit to Guiyan in Guizhou Province.

The program then takes a full-day excursion to Huangguoshu Waterfalls, along with a visit to the Dragon Palace Cave, a stop at a Lao Han village for a masked opera performance and a visit to a Miao village.

From there, the group pushes farther west, to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in southwestern China. Then it's on to Jinghong in Xishuangbanna before finally arriving in Tibet at Gyalthang for a four-day stay.

There the cultural immersion begins in earnest as clients visit the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, built by the fifth Dalai Lama 300 years ago. It houses more than 700 monks.

The next stop is Lijiang, China, where guests encounter the Khampa people. The program then ventures deeper into Tibet, visiting Baisha for a taste of the ancient Naxi culture.

The trip ends where it began, Hong Kong, with a harbor cruise aboard a Chinese junk and a tram ride to Victoria Peak. -- D.C.

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