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Tour Companies Waive Penalties to End of Year

November 11, 2001|Jane Engle

Major tour companies, many of which waived penalties for travelers who backed out of trips immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, recently began extending the offer for bookings through the end of the year.

New York-based Trafalgar Tours USA, whose customers number "in the six figures" each year (officials won't give an exact number) on trips throughout the world, offers what it calls a "Peace of Mind Guarantee." It lets customers reschedule trips up to 24 hours before departure without penalty. Such trips must be booked by Dec. 31 and can be rescheduled this year or next. (Customers who cancel without rescheduling are charged the usual penalties.) The guarantee applies to tours involving most but not all of the airlines the company works with, said president Gavin Tollman. (800) 854-0103, http://www.trafalgartours.com.

Colorado-based Globus & Cosmos, which said it sends more than 500,000 people on trips worldwide each year, has announced a similar policy for bookings through Dec. 31. Unlike Trafalgar, which offers the guarantee for free, Globus & Cosmos wraps it into its travel insurance, with premiums starting at $59 per person, said spokeswoman Barbara Bauerle. (800) 221-0090, http://www.cosmostours.com.

Miami-based Far&Wide Travel Corp., which comprises 20 tour operators serving more than 200,000 travelers each year, offers what it calls a "Safe&Sound" program. Customers can cancel trips up to 60 days before departure or change or postpone trips up to a day before, without penalty. The program also provides benefits up to $100 per day if a trip is delayed or interrupted, and covers medical expenses and emergency aid, emergency cash advances and a 24-hour toll-free phone to call for travel assistance. The program is free for bookings through Dec. 31, said Executive Vice President Barry Kaplan; after that date, "we haven't decided what we will charge," he added. http://www.farandwide.com.

New Casino Resort to Open in Las Vegas

Las Vegas' Flamingo Road will get a flashy addition Thursday when the $265-million Palms Casino Resort opens. Developed by entrepreneur George Maloof Jr., the 42-story resort has 447 rooms priced at $89 to $299 per night, a 95,000-square-foot gaming floor, a 14-screen movie complex, seven restaurants, a nightclub and a spa. It is at 4321 W. Flamingo Road. (866) 725-6773, http://www.palms.com.

Philadelphia Visitor Center Touts Park, City

The Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and other shrines of U.S. history, is getting a grander visitor center.

In an unusual partnership, the $38-million Independence Visitor Center, opening Nov. 20, will offer information about the National Park Service site and the Philadelphia area. Visitors can book hotel rooms, learn about hundreds of regional attractions, link up with park tours, view historical films and browse exhibits on the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin and other topics.

The center, at 6th and Market streets across from the Liberty Bell, will replace the current park visitor center at 3rd and Chestnut streets and the city visitor center at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard. It will be open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. The center is part of a sweeping redesign that will remount the Liberty Bell in a new building and add a museum on the Constitution by 2003. (800) 537-7676, http://www.independencevisitorcenter.com.

Gray Line Bus Operator Goes Bankrupt in Flagstaff

Gray Line's tour bus operator in Flagstaff, Ariz., which shuttled Amtrak customers from the train station there to Grand Canyon National Park and to Phoenix, abruptly stopped operating and filed for bankruptcy late last month. At the Travel section's press time Tuesday, Amtrak was trying to find another bus company to cover the route.

Officers of Nava-Hopi Tours, in business for 73 years, could not be reached for comment. A sign posted for customers cited "the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent economic hardships" for the closure, the Associated Press reported. Besides servicing the Amtrak station, Nava-Hopi took passengers to the Phoenix airport and on local tours.

It was unclear whether passengers on canceled tours would get refunds. The attorney for the court trustee in the case said customers could apply to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, where the company filed its Chapter 7 bankruptcy papers.

Traveler's Note ...

Tours have resumed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., after it was closed for a week in October for anthrax testing. (202) 707-5000.

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