Saturday, 7 May 2011

Former Cruise West chairman launches Explor Tours

Dick West, founder and former chairman and CEO of now-defunct Cruise West, is starting a new travel company called Explor Tours. West said the inspiration comes from his passion for small ship cruises and tours that explore unique destinations which are rich in natural and cultural history. Cruise West was forced to close last September after it ran out of funding. West’s father Chuck West had started the small ship cruise line.

“In the last three years Cruise West began offering tours and cruises with other operators around the world,” West said. “We found there are a number of very good operators who are virtually unknown, offering our kind of up-close, casual and personal experiences in great destinations – and our guests really enjoyed these programs and the new destinations.”
West said the concept is to bring more of these programs and destinations to the travel marketplace, principally in the U.S. He said he plans to work with a select number of travel agents who understand and appreciate the value of small group exploration travel, both for their clients and for themselves. “This is not mass-market tourism, he said. “It is bringing people closer to the destination in smaller groups so they can meet the people, get close to the wildlife and natural wonders. It is about creating unforgettable memories, just as we did at Cruise West.”
West said Explor Tours’ first programs will feature the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador, with an optional extension to Peru and Machu Picchu. The plan is to expand to southern Patagonia after the initial start-up. West said his new company will offer South American programs because there is so much diversity in terms of cultures, geography, flora and fauna, particularly Ecuador, Peru and Chile. “Within the small country of Ecuador there are four distinct landscapes, from the rainforest jungles of the Amazon region to the high Andes mountains and active snow-covered volcanoes, to the pristine Pacific beaches, to the wonderful Galapagos Islands,” West said. “And all of it is unspoiled, with 17 percent of the country set aside as National Parks or Reserves.”

West plans to start taking bookings this summer, and operating tours later this year. “We will start out very small,” West said “We will focus on getting things set up and operating for Galapagos and Ecuador before we start branching out. And I plan to lead some special group departures myself.”
To allay concerns about booking travel with a new start-up company, West said all guest payments will be by credit card and monies put into an escrow account until after travel is completed. For more information or to get on Explor Tours’ email list, email dickwest@explor-tours.com