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The Mature Traveler

On Course to a Culture Adventure

December 07, 1986|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks.

Many special talents are required in designing and implementing any motor-coach tour. Those aimed at the mature market often require subtle alterations; those for seniors almost certainly need changes.

The choice of transportation, accommodations and restaurants, finding the correct balance of type, class and price to suit the group--it's not an easy task. Add all the detail work, the meals and rest stops, baggage handling, selection and training of the escorts, and we begin to see how much is involved in putting together a good trip.

The basic tour route and itinerary are paramount and are usually tailored to the group of people the tour is aimed at.

The tour escort's role is a vital one. Even the best-planned tour on paper can be reduced to a tedious drive-by if the escort is vapid and dull, unwilling or unable to excite, entertain and educate the tour members.

Judging from the dozens and dozens of mature and senior tours brought to my attention, there are many excellent and professional tour planners in this area--and, I hope, tour escorts to match their efforts.

Impressed With Tour Ideas

Although I have never taken one of their tours I have been impressed with the tour ideas and planning of Seminar Travel Inc., a small Burbank-based company operated by a retired English professor, Clarence Sandelin, and his immediate family.

Seminar Travel does not plan and run just tours. They are Cultural Adventures, a concept Sandelin has perfected over more than 18 years of designing, organizing and conducting trips for civic, academic, church and senior groups.

Partly because of his retirement and 61-plus age and outlook, Sandelin has become a specialist in mature travel planning and has some well-formed opinions.

"Mature travelers should check for more than price, meals and accommodations in the tour brochures," Sandelin says. "All these are the practical details, simply a means toward the ends.

"The travel experience itself, with its escape, surprise and delight, its leisure, laughter and sudden insight are even more important.

Expanding Horizons

"A mature traveler, whose horizons have steadily expanded through a busy lifetime, and whose basic curiosity is still alive and well, deserves a memorable vacation now that he or she has the time to see what they look at, listen to what they hear and ponder all things new and different.

"Fortunately there are a host of specialty travel programs available today that try to meet this challenge," Sandelin adds. "We like to think that our own offerings belong in this category."

Seminar Travel serves the mature and senior market in two ways. First, through its small but select program of escorted tours. But it also works with groups to design, develop and implement a single tour or a tour program.

"Sooner or later most groups consider the benefits of undertaking a travel program to attract new members, to raise funds, or simply as another special event in an exciting group agenda," Sandelin says.

After consulting with group leaders, Seminar Travel will research and design a tour or program within the cost parameters of the group, make all the travel arrangements and field management, and provide a sound-and-light pre-tour program for tour members and prospects.

"Whether designed as budget, first-class or deluxe adventures, the travel programs should seek a full travel experience: peace, creature comforts, pleasurable excitement, moments of insight and the lingering afterglow of a memorable travel experience," he explains.

Mass Travel Resources

Seminar Travel takes full advantage of mass travel resources such as group discounts and senior discounts but does not rely on commercial entertainment packages on its tours.

"Our experience shows that it costs no more to tailor a tour program to client interest," Sandelin says, "than to participate in a ready-made tour."

Over the last 20 years Sandelin has developed his own areas of expertise: the British Isles, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, West Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France, plus the American Southwest with emphasis on Indian culture.

Developing for 1987 after initial cultural expeditions are Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. For 1988, Seminar Travel is developing tours to Korea for the Olympic Games with optional excursions to China and Japan.

"Mature folk often live on fixed incomes," Sandelin notes, "so the cost of travel does indeed count heavily in their vacation plans. Depending on group interest, we organize tours that may employ any range of accommodations, from economy to deluxe.

"Seniors are often interested in our campus-based programs," he adds, "both at home and in various countries abroad."

Choice of Accommodations

In Sandelin's "Legendary Britain," one of his regular tours, a choice of accommodations is offered either in three- or four-star hotels in towns or in modern university residence halls. The tour can be 15 or 22 days.

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