ASTA hoping Peru tours draw attendees to Lima expo

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Plaza Mayor in Lima, Peru.LIMA, Peru -- ASTA expects to attract between 1,100 and 1,200 delegates to its International Destination Expo, scheduled for March 1 to 4, here in the Peruvian capital.

The Westin Libertador, the country's largest meetings facility, will host the event's trade show and seminars. The Westin, located in Lima's San Isidro financial and shopping district, has 31 suites and 170 run-of-house rooms all with the chain's signature Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Bathrooms. The property is the country's tallest building and boasts a Heavenly Spa, described as the largest urban spa in South America.

ASTA cites bottom-line reasons when urging agents to attend the IDE, beginning with the chance to earn certification as a Peru travel specialist, in part by traveling around the country on pre- and post-IDE tours. The combination of classroom education and personal experience is designed to emphasize the variety that defines the product's appeal -- dramatic mountains, river and jungle scenery, exotic wildlife and a fascinating history -- and put agents in a strong position to make the sale.

Delegates can choose one of a range of free daytime or nighttime sightseeing tours in and around Lima, including one highlighting the capital as a rising culinary star. For additional fees, agents may choose from nine pre- and post-meeting itineraries that take in a diverse set of destinations.

Predictably, trips include the best-known attractions of all: Cuzco, the Inca capital city, and Machu Picchu, an Inca mountaintop wonder that remained hidden, and thus protected from human depredations, for hundreds of years.

Other Peru itineraries include the pre-Inca Nazca Lines; sites connected to other pre-Inca civilizations; the Amazon and other jungle experiences; Lake Titicaca, which is the world's highest navigable lake; the colonial city of Arequipa; and the Colca Canyon, for its natural scenery and the traditional way of life in its villages.

On the tours, delegates can enjoy the comforts of five-star hotels or, at the other extreme, opt for a camping and hiking trip to Machu Picchu.

ASTA's projections for attendance in Lima are in line with IDE history. Most years, since the inaugural IDE in Prague, attendance has ranged from 1,000 to 1,300. The exception was a dip to a number between 700 and 800 at San Juan this year, possibly explained by conflicting events plus the fact that agents already have more chances to visit and learn about Puerto Rico than more distant destinations.

Kristina Rundquist, ASTA vice president of communications, said, "Peru is a destination like no other" with its mixture of cultural and natural attractions, and ASTA's IDE "sets the standard for experiential education."

IDE registration fees are $359 for members of ASTA/the National Association of Career Travel Agents, $399 for nonmembers and $429 for guests of registered delegates.

Besides the Westin, four other hotels are official IDE properties: the Novotel, also in San Isidro; the Casa Andina Private Collection and the Hotel Miraflores Park, an Orient-Express property noted for gardens, beaches and cultural activities; and the Sheraton Lima, close to the historical Old Town. Base rates for official properties range from $100 to $199 per room per night. However, delegates are offered 21 hotel choices for booking at ASTA.org, and rates for the entire hotel pool begin with $69 at the Hotel Ibis Larco Miraflores.

ASTA said a new booking engine at its site will make it easier for delegates to register for the event as well as book domestic air, hotel and all their sightseeing and tour plans.

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