The Marshall plan: Celebrity eyes 'Super' tour

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n tough times, you need good people in the trenches, so Celebrity Tours of Yonkers, N.Y., brought in former New York Giants defensive tackle Leonard Marshall to lead its sales and marketing offensive.

Marshall is a two-time Super Bowl champion who formed his own mortgage brokerage after retiring from football.

Celebrity Tours operates golf, fishing and sightseeing tours led by former baseball, basketball, hockey, football and soccer stars. Through Marshall's contacts, the company is trying to put together a reunion of the 1986 Super Bowl between the Giants and the Denver Broncos.

"We have all the original players lined up," said Celebrity Tours president J.P. Cone. Now the operator is shopping for an appropriate destination. Candidates include Ireland, Portugal, Scotland and Spain.

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Apple Vacations has had a travel agent booking engine for almost three years now, but the wholesaler recently mounted a consumer booking engine -- one that can't be booked without choosing from Apple's selection of agents.

The site is good news for agents, said senior vice president Tim Mullen. "Two days after putting our button on its site, one agency in Snug Harbor, N.Y., had a $7,000 Jamaica booking."

The booking engine was so successful for Snug Harbor Travel that the firm changed its name to Internet Travel Center.

And one month after employing the site, the agency has surpassed its booking levels for all of the previous year.

"In the past, this agency only gave us minimal bookings," said Larry Touhill, Apple's e-commerce manager. "It was barely on our radar last year."

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It worked in Europe, so to boost sales in case of a winter of economic discontent, Trafalgar Tours is bringing its Winter Breaks discounts to its North America programs.

Nine North American itineraries reduced 20% to 25% will be offered from Nov. 1 to April 15 for a variety of destinations, including Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, the Canadian Rockies and Mexico.

Land prices start at $699 per person, double, for a six-night itinerary through the southwest U.S., including Arizona, California and Nevada.

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Already grown beyond its Ireland base to France, Greece, Italy and the U.K., Celtic Tours is expanding into Germany.

Product development manager Carol Dimopoulos said Germany's castles and other cultural similarities to Ireland make it a good jump-off point for Celtic's customers.

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Determined to boost sales, Far & Wide upped its base commission to 20% on four programs to Greece, Italy and Ireland.

The programs are: the seven-night Royal Aegean, with a stay in Athens and a Greek Islands cruise, priced from $949; the 11-night Hellenic Classic, which also includes a cruise, priced from $1,519; an eight-night tour of Rome, Florence and Venice, priced from $1,849; and an eight-night escorted tour of northern Italy, priced from $2,809.

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Avanti Destinations is barging into a new market with 13 six-night barge cruises in England, France and Scotland, using new or renovated eight- to 24-passenger barges with English-speaking crews. Departures begin Sept. 7; price from $1,490 to $3,690 per person, double.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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