This year will be a good one for selling Central and South American destinations, according to Daniel Taramona, owner and president of Miami-based Tara Tours.
"The big-ticket items are moving well for 2008, including Galapagos, Easter Island and Machu Picchu," he said.
Taramona credited increased media attention on these regions for the growing demand.
"There has been a lot of publicity about these three destinations," he said. "We had the New Seven Wonders of the World contest [Machu Picchu was one of the winners], and there have been so many documentaries on Galapagos. We have been selling these destinations for 28 years, and I don't remember ever [this kind of] attention and publicity.
Founded in 1980, Tara Tours serves about 7,000 travel agencies and runs many fam trips to educate agents about Latin America, which Taramona said has become a growth region thanks to the current political and economic climate.
"After 9/11, people started looking for nearby places," Taramona said. "Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama are only two-and-a-half hours away [from Miami] and, most importantly, the price is right."
Value and the array of possible experiences encouraged Tara Tours to develop new Latin America programs.
"We love Guatemala because it is one of the great buys," said Taramona. "The country offers culture, history, archaeological sites, great shopping and very reasonable rates. You can go there for six days for under $1,000."
Taramona said there was still plenty of potential in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and lesser-known regions of Brazil. Chile and Peru need infrastructure development but have "tremendous potential," he said.
Tours on tap
The prices for the following tours are based on double occupancy and include roundtrip air from Miami. All programs also are available from other U.S. gateways.
• Panama Super Special: Six nights at the all-inclusive Royal Decameron resort for $880 (April 16 to Sept. 30) or $1,150 (through April 15 and from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.)
• Exciting Costa Rica: Seven nights to the Arenal Volcano area and the jungles of Tortuguero plus river rafting on the Reventazon River or an alternate ride on an aerial tram. Price is $1,960 per person.
• On the Mayan Path: Seven-night Guatemala program with visits to Guatemala City, Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango and Tikal. Price starts at $1,591 per person.
• Golden Kingdom: Seven-night Peru program to Lima, Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. Prices start at $2,176.
• Galapagos: Four days aboard the Explorer during the Galapagos portion of the trip plus four nights at the Dann Carlton Hotel in Quito, Ecuador. Price starts at $3,346.
Call (305) 278-4464 or visit www.taratours.com.
To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].