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The Savvy Traveler

Some Countries Offer Bargain Prices

January 22, 1989|PETER S. GREENBERG | Greenberg is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

As you begin making preliminary travel plans for next summer, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Americans have become much more sensitive to travel costs, and their travel choices are reflecting that concern. For example, the number of Americans visiting the United Kingdom in 1988 was about the same as 1987.

For 1989 that figure is not expected to grow. Why? In a survey conducted by Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency, only 38% believed that Great Britain is cheaper than other countries in Europe.

With the dollar still weak against the pound, the United Kingdom is in the same category as France and Italy, relative to expenses.

Thus, many Americans have adjusted their trips accordingly. The trend started last year with some surprising travel choices by Americans. The biggest surprise was to the Middle East.

"Tours to Egypt were booming," says Robert Cazian, owner of R&H Voyage in Glendale, a company that specializes in Middle East travel. "In 1987 hardly anyone went, and our business dropped off more than 60%. But 1988 saw a dramatic turnaround."

Operators such as Cazian had trouble accommodating everyone who wanted to go to Egypt. It was nearly impossible to get space at most Cairo hotels, and it was impossible to get berths on Nile River cruises.

Indications are that this trend will continue through 1989.

Tour operators offer a variety of Egypt trips--the more traditional Pyramids and Luxor, as well as the Sinai and St. Catherine's Monastery.

A changing aspect of Middle East travel is the move toward individualized itineraries with firms like Abercrombie & Kent offering first-class trips to Egypt. (One R&H itinerary features a private dinner trip on the Nile aboard a felucca .)

Turkey also has become a hot destination. Europeans have known about Turkey for years, but until this year most of the Americans who visited did so on one-day stopovers via cruise ships or they were backpackers.

This year the flow to Turkey is due to its not being expensive. It has one of the best--and one of the most unspoiled--seacoasts. It has one of the best charter yacht fleets in the world and has a rich cultural heritage. Also, the people are great.

But don't look for promotions and advertising. Instead, many major hotels and resort developers are putting their money into construction and development.

Hotels (including a Regent) and elegant restaurants are being built, and tourism is slowly becoming more sophisticated.

Many luxury tour operators also are combining Turkey with Egypt in one tour. In addition, more cruise lines are exploring Istanbul as a destination.

Expanding Europe Service

Some international airlines are investigating both Istanbul and the resort city of Izmir as new destinations. Some, like KLM, offer good connections and attractive air fares from the United States via Amsterdam.

Many of these airlines also areconsidering flying into numerous U.S. gateway cities to expand European service.

During the next few months Portugal and Spain will join Turkey as hot destinations. Both of these countries have always been terrific alternatives to the usual European itineraries of England, France and Italy.

Tourism to Portugal and Spain is growing, and with good reason. The dollar simply buys you more, and both national airlines are marketing attractive tour packages.

TAP, the Portuguese airline, begins service to Los Angeles in April.

Iberia, the Spanish airline, now has flights out of Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles to Madrid, in addition to its regular New York City service. Flights from Los Angeles are now nonstop.

An example of the bargains: Iberia is offering a one-week trip to Madrid or Spain's Costa del Sol with hotel rates at $5 a day.

Here's the deal: Buy an inexpensive APEX ticket from New York City to Madrid and Iberia will virtually host you for a week for $5 a day. This includes daily breakfast, hotel taxes and service charges. It's available through March 18 from Petrabax World Tour Operators. Call toll-free (800) 367-6611.

American Airlines

But Iberia isn't the only airline that flies from the United States to Spain. TWA and Pan Am fly there, too. And American Airlines has started service from Dallas.

American is also rapidly expanding its European route network, but along nontraditional routes. "If someone is going to the South of France," says spokesman Tim Doke, "then why do they have to fly through Paris?"

Already, American flies from Chicago to Manchester, England, for those folks who don't like to go through London. And on May 1 American begins service from New York City to Lyon, France. On the same day the airline begins flying between Chicago and Stockholm. On May 12 American starts flying to Brussels.

American's New York City flight to Brussels will continue to Hamburg, West Germany. And the Chicago-Brussels flight will fly on to Duseldorf. That will increase American's European routes to 13 cities and 119 flights a week.

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