Harry Potter Casts a Spell on Vacationers

Come 2009, Universal Orlando may have its J.K. Rowling–approved "Harry Potter" theme park (see sidebar p.34), but some clients may need a more immediate remedy for the impending Harry Potter fever, given the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is set for release July 11 and the publication of the seventh—and final—book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is scheduled to hit bookstores 10 days later. Thankfully, a handful of tour operators have worked their magic to create appealing tours for young wizards in England and Scotland—whose castles and landscape serve as backdrops for the five Harry Potter films. Clients can choose an entire vacation centered on Harry and Co. or simply a day's worth of Potter-themed activities and site seeing.

For customers who fall into the latter category, Travel Agent recommends London-based British Tours, Ltd (www.britishtours.com). With groups of two or more people, agents can earn up to 15 percent commission on an hours-long tour that stops at some of the films' more prominent locations, such as Oxford University, which in the films serves as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Further scenes were shot at the Norman Cathedral of Gloucester, including the ghost and talking portrait scenes in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Clients can visit both sites on a 10-hour tour, or just Oxford for five hours. For an extra hour, clients also can include Lacock Abbey, where some of the classroom scenes were filmed. Oxford can be combined with other historic sights such as Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon, Blenheim Palace or the Cotswolds. A rendering of Hogwarts Castle at Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park that's expected to debut in 2009

More Potter-themed Excursions

A chance meeting of three Harry Potter fans led to the creation of HP Fan Trips (www.hpfantrips.com), a division of Colorado-based Beyond Boundaries Travel (http:// beyondboundariestravel.com). Space is still available on HP Fan Trips' Book 7 Release Trip, which includes a copy of J.K. Rowling's soon-to-be-released tome.

The two trips take place during the July 21 release date of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; between July 18-21 and July 18-22 respectively. Clients can choose to stay three or four nights in Edinburgh or four nights in London. Enthusiastic travelers on an HP Fan Trip

Depending on the client's preference of Edinburgh or London, excursions include the Falconry Center for an owl encounter and a morning Thames Cruise. Guests may also opt to book a ride on Locomotive #5972, the train used as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films.

HP Fan Trips also is available for the creation and booking of customized Harry Potter-centric trips. Commission on customized and pre-packaged tours vary, but generally fall around 10 percent. Universal Orlando and Potter Mania

Both Delta Vacations (www.deltavacations.com) and Continental Airlines Vacations (www.covacations.com) offer an escorted tour themed around Harry Potter, which also is available as an add-on to London City Stay packages. The one-day motor coach tour travels through Stratford, Oxford and the Cotswolds, which includes a tour of Christchurch College at Oxford, where various school scenes were shot for the Harry Potter films, including a stop by the Great Hall, which was replicated by the Warner Bros. Studios to create Hogwarts Hall. Both Delta Vacations and Continental Airlines Vacations offer up to a 15 percent commission on European bookings.