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Tourism Merging firms to give local tours by land and sea



Travel Companies Agree to Share Access

To Activities, Staff

“Amphibious” sightseeing? It’s a combination of land and water tours, and it’s heading this way.

Two companies that are currently merging , Branson, Mo.-based Ride the Ducks and Boston Duck Tours , plan to make San Diego their next location in spring 2002.

The companies operate tours out of vehicles that navigate both water and regular streets, said John Walker, chief operating officer for the Ride the Ducks. The “duck,” which costs about $200,000 to build, carries about 38 passengers and is about 8 feet wide and 40 feet long.

A base for operations has not yet been finalized, said Walker, a Carlsbad resident who will oversee the San Diego location. Market research will continue for about two more months, he said.

Walker said in 1996, Boston Duck Tours was named the hottest new attraction in Massachusetts.

Walker, a former vice president with TrizecHahn, first saw Boston Duck Tours while he was managing Prudential Center in Boston.

Other than Boston’s Charles River and Branson, where the tour has been operated for more than 30 years, the companies have one other location based at Seattle’s Lake Union.

Since the other cities’ Ducks operate in fresh water, a saltwater “duck” vehicle prototype for San Diego is being created in Branson.

The other cities’ infrastructure systems are being adapted for San Diego as well.

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New Deal: Access is the main change in a new partnership between San Diego Travel Group and Outdoor Travel Adventures.

The two companies, both locally based, now regularly refer business to each other, said Wendy Paeofsky, vice president at Outdoor Adventures. Also, although Outdoor Adventures works with travel agencies in general, San Diego Travel Group agents can have additional assistance from Outdoor Adventures staff, Paeofsky said.

Outdoor Adventures coordinates specialized tours, ranging from a trip with access to a low-key activity such as snorkeling to a trek in Nepal, she explained.

The access is physical as well. In December, Outdoor Adventures moved from its La Jolla office to an adjoining suite at San Diego Travel Group’s Point Loma location. Outdoor Adventures has two full-time employees and two part-timers.

Outdoor Adventures books its customers’ flights through San Diego Travel Group agents and the company’s flight-booking system.

Until last summer, Outdoor Adventures had been based in Pennsylvania, where it was founded in 1997. The company is projecting sales of $1 million this year, Paeofsky said.

Checking In: No word on how much Viejas Enterprises paid to become title sponsor of the San Diego Hall of Champions. Bill Adams, the sports museum’s executive director, did not want to disclose it, nor did a representative for Viejas, the business arm for the Viejas Band of Kumeyay Indians. With the two-year deal announced earlier this month, Viejas becomes title sponsor for all of the museum’s major events. The San Diego Repertory Theatre recently renewed its lease with the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza. The new 20-year agreement again has the theater company as resident artistic company and manager of the Lyceum. No details were available as to how much the Rep was paying for the site. Locally based Karl Strauss Breweries is being featured at Disney’s California Adventure, which opened in Anaheim earlier this month. According to a representative, Karl Strauss will represent the microbrewing industry in an area of the theme park that represents the state’s accomplishments.

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Marketing By Air: A question on a national radio show revved up some publicity for a new company that gives tours of Coronado in a vintage van.

Garner Mabry, who started Coronado Tours in the beginning of December, called National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” with a question about a squeak in his fully restored, 1965 Volkswagen.

To be on the show, he contacted them in advance, and his interview with the show’s hosts was taped Dec. 13. It aired Jan. 5.

Within 20 minutes, Mabry began getting several inquiries from people already planning trips to San Diego. Calls came from places such as Kansas City, Tampa, New York City and Philadelphia, he said.

Now, he’s often recognized by locals and tourists as well, Mabry said.

The deadline for the next tourism & hospitality column is Feb. 22. Rodrigues can be reached at (858) 277-6359, Ext. 107, or via e-mail at trodrigues@sdbj.com.

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