Independent travel specialist Avanti Destinations has launched a custom groups department that can do trips for groups of up to 100.

Avanti, which sells exclusively through travel agents, previously did custom tours only for groups under 16 -- primarily family and friends.

The new department  will create custom itineraries for almost any type of group that travel agents book: sports teams, school and alumni groups, volunteers, and groups wanting to see special events, performances or specific  sights based on specialized interests.

"Because every group has their own idea of what they want to do and where they want to go, I see our custom groups department as an extension of our brand of independent travel, where no two Avanti vacations are the same", said Paul Barry, Avanti's executive chairman. "Avanti's staff has tremendous in-depth destination knowledge and has handled hundreds of small, 10-16 passenger groups over the years. With our ability to seamlessly connect multiple destinations, we've simply extended the scope of our services."

Customized, multi-destination vacations for independent travelers have been the Portland, Ore.-based tour operator's specialty since its founding in 1981.

"The new department is staffed by a team I've personally assembled with many years' experience handling custom group bookings," Barry said. "I expect the department will grow significantly in the next year."

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