IExplore invites adventurous travelers

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A web site founded and manned by inveterate travelers seeks to reach baby boomers and Gen Xers eager for vacations that stretch their muscles as well as their minds.

IExplore, which went live in mid-February, allows prospective travelers to search for a tour using variables such as price, location, activity and month of departure, as so many travel sites do. The Chicago-based company, which breaks a $13 million-plus marketing campaign in May magazines, employs former Peace Corps volunteers, zoologists and other enthusiasts who have lived in foreign countries and can answer questions by telephone or e-mail.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

"It's not just looking at brochure copy. You have the opportunity to talk to people who have been there, done it," said Peter Krivkovich, chairman-CEO of Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago, iExplore's agency.

IExplore estimates Americans spend $483 billion traveling at home and abroad, but only about $40 billion--or 8%--on adventure trips.

IExplore offers some 5,000 trips that range from culinary excursions to white-water rafting and safaris. Tour operators range from high-end Abercrombie & Kent to adventure-oriented Backroads to inexpensive trips from enthusiasts such as Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

 "People out there want to do this [type of traveling], but they don't know where to turn," said Peter Peterson, iExplore chief marketing officer.

The site, which does not accept banner ads, links with merchants such as TravelSmith for apparel and Longitude for trip-specific books, as well as companies that expedite visas and passports and sell travel insurance. IExplore provides information on a particular country's history, cultural dos and don'ts, along with visa and vaccination requirements.

"We handle the consumer from introduction to answering questions to booking the trip."

The site will promote itself in May issues of National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Travel & Leisure and other magazines such as Audubon, Civilization and Gourmet. Ads feature majestic photos of people in interesting places and copy that says, "If you've got a travel dream, chances are we've lived it." The tagline: "Come back different."

TV spots, likely on cable, will follow in the final three months of the year, Mr. Peterson said.

Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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