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High-End Vacation Wholesaler Travcoa Sold

Acquisitions: The Newport Beach company, a pioneer in exotic locales since 1954, will retain independence under Grand Expeditions of Florida.

August 08, 2000|LESLIE EARNEST | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Travcoa, a Newport Beach company that organizes escorted tours to exotic locales for well-heeled travelers, has been purchased by a Florida firm, part of the consolidation wave in the industry.

Terms of the deal, which was announced Monday, were not disclosed.

Travcoa, a 46-year-old tour wholesaler that arranges high-end trips and then sells them to travel agents, was acquired by Grand Expeditions Inc., an upscale leisure travel company based in Boca Raton. It is Grand's fourth expedition within a month.

Travcoa's escorted tours, which range in price from $4,000 to about $46,000, offer such ventures as digging for dinosaur fossils in the Gobi Desert or sampling chateaux life in France. Each year, Travcoa arranges one 24-day, around-the-world trip in a private jet. The price tag: $45,900.

The Newport Beach company--officially Travel Corp. of America--said its operations will continue as usual. President Kathleen McCarty-Carey will keep her position and there will be no layoffs. Travcoa has 60 employees, mostly in Newport Beach, and 100 tour managers worldwide.

Travcoa said it will benefit from the larger company's marketing and technological resources, while continuing to operate independently.

Travcoa was founded in Chicago in 1954 by travel buff M. William "Mel" Dultz, who opened the Newport Beach office in 1980.

From the beginning, Dultz was a trailblazer, arranging trips to places that were not commonly frequented by tourists, said Angela Miller, director of marketing.

"He was interested in opening up new areas to travel, places like Easter Island, Bali, the Falkland Islands," she said.

Still, he attempted to pamper tour guests.

In 1972, when planning a tour to Papua New Guinea, Dultz arranged for the first air-conditioned cruise vessel to take guests on a river. He also arranged for fresh lobster to be flown in from Australia for the travelers, Miller said.

Dultz, a Corona del Mar resident, died in 1998 at the age of 71. He left his company to his sister, Illinois resident Betty Phillips, and to McCarty-Carey, who had worked with him for decades, Miller said.

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