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turning 2000 . . . where in the world will you be?

From the South Pacific to the Egyptian Pyramids, plans are already being laid for the biggest New Year's Eve in 1,000 years

December 29, 1996|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES TRAVEL WRITER

Perhaps you thought that you had better things to do than worry about a New Year's Eve that is 1,097 days off. But that, dear readers, is exactly the kind of sloth that will make you a loser in a global event where timing is everything: the scramble to secure the perfect location from which to watch 1999 become 2000.

Already in the rush to market the most high-profile New Year's Eve in 1,000 years, the travel industry's machinery is in motion. Concordes have been reserved and lodgings blocked, reservations taken at New York's Rainbow Room, a ball promised in Vienna. Committees, societies and consortia have convened in New York, Washington and Suva, Fiji. Brochures have been mailed, corporate sponsorships secured (Moet & Chandon were grabbed up early) and T-shirts printed (Example: Hard Rock Cafe New York Millennial Ball 2000 AD).

Among the favorite destinations so far: the South Pacific and the pyramids at Giza, Egypt, with the Taj Mahal in India, Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater and Peru's Machu Picchu, among other contenders. And don't count out Nazareth, where key events in the first millennium AD took shape, and where civic leaders are now building 2,000 new hotel rooms and renovating the city center.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 12, 1997 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Travel Desk 2 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
New Year's 2000--In a photograph in the Dec. 29 Travel section, the site of a Viennese ball was incorrectly identified, due to an editing error, as the Imperial Hotel. The couples were waltzing at the Opera House in Vienna.
Also, due to a production error, a photograph of Machu Picchu was reversed.

"It's such a landmark event, and people want a landmark experience," says Eileen Daily, a spokeswoman for Cunard Line, which plans to strategically position its five ships for the Big Day.

"It figures--it's on a Friday!" says Fred Hansen, director of food and beverage services for the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, fingering the future pages of a multiyear calendar. "That's going to be a wild weekend."

And getting ready for it is a problematic job for businesses and consumers alike. While some entrepreneurs are out ferociously marketing, countless other lodgings, restaurants, tour operators and cruise lines haven't announced plans yet.

"We had no idea that the demand was going to start coming in so early," says spokeswoman Mimi Weisband of Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises. She theorizes that "there are two groups of people who are making their plans now. There are those who always like to be away at that time anyway and there are those who like to be a part of special events, like going tothe Olympics or the Super Bowl."

Crystal Cruises has responded by taking deposits of $500 each from about 1,600 would-be cruisers--enough to fill nearly 90% of its berths--despite the fact that Crystal hasn't decided where its two ships will be or what it will cost to be on them. Carnival Cruises says it won't know until sometime next year where its 11 ships will be in December 1999, but it is taking deposits of $150 to $250 nevertheless.

Throughout the tourism industry, managers are devising techniques for taking reservations and deposits without detailing programs or rates, for fear of underestimating inflation or prices people are willing to pay. It's not easy putting a price on the most resonant New Year's Eve since Western civilization started counting the years AD.

In May, New York-based luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent (tel. [800] 323-7308) sent out a splashy catalog offering 14 different New Year's 1999 tours worldwide, most of them limited to just 24 traveling celebrants. By December, five had sold out.

The first was an India-Nepal trip with the new year celebrated at the Taj Mahal. Among the others: Egypt and the Nile (New Year's at the pyramids), Kenya (New Year's on the Mara River), Kenya-Tanzania (New Year's at Ngorongoro Crater) and Europe, where celebrants will greet the new year with a ball in the opulent rooms of Vienna's Imperial Hotel. A trip to Machu Picchu hasn't sold out yet, but is expected to.

Prices? The company brochure quotes prices of $2,385 to $8,250 per person (excluding air fares) for the same itineraries this year and stresses that those figures "will increase, possibly significantly, by 1999."

*

Meanwhile, two Concorde supersonic jets have been bagged by Intrav (tel. [800] 456-8100), a high-end tour operator based in St. Louis. The company has made New Year's Eve 1999 the centerpiece of two around-the-world-via-Concorde tours, each beginning in New York, with 17-day itineraries that include Dallas, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Sydney, Hong Kong, Delhi, Nairobi and the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, Cairo and back to New York. One jet will depart Dec. 24, 1999, putting its group in Hong Kong for the arrival of the new year; the second group departs Dec. 27, and celebrates the new year in Sydney, city of the 2000 Summer Olympics. Ninety-six seats will be available on each plane. Fares, which include all meals and accommodations and various extras, have not been set, but are expected to run about $70,000 per seat.

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