Ranches back on trail to rope family market

Ranches back on trail to rope family market

With more than half of the 100-plus ranches in Texas offering overnight accommodation - many of which also featuring an activities and entertainment programme - the state is beginning to grow in popularity as a tour-and-stay option.

Specialist operators are beginning to feature longer stays at dude and working ranches throughout Texas. This is the particular case in attractive Hill Country, where some traditional settlements have become resorts in their own right.

Texas has not been easy to promote as an alternative flydrive destination. Driving distances between the main cities and towns can be lengthy, averaging around 200 miles, and few operators offer structured itineraries. But growth is steady.

Getaway Vacations product manager Dominic Hodson said: "We introduced the popular Mayan Dude Ranch near Bandera this year, which has been quite successful, and plan to offer more variety in our 2000 brochure.

Getaway charges £79 per night at the Mayan Dude Ranch, 50 miles northwest of San Antonio, based on two to three people sharing.

The British preference for all-inclusive elements is also beginning to be catered for by the ranches.

Many now offer meals, evening bar services, sports and recreational facilities, and entertainments within the price. In addition, a number of ranches have supervised children's programmes which include trail rides, round-ups, cook-outs and sports activities.

Premier Holidays plans to introduce accommodation on working cattle ranches in its 2000 America programme, but US general manager Rob Haynes said clients want to combine two or three states on a US trip.

He added: "With Texas, it is quite difficult to decide what it should be twinned with and most clients still need convincing it has enough to offer in its own right to warrant a fortnight's holiday." Premier already features stays in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Big Bend National Park, with its dramatic canyons and sprawling desert landscapes.

Jetset is another operator that has introduced Texas ranch stays this year, featuring a choice of six in its new All America brochure.

A spokeswoman said: "The state offers the best in ranch stays, mixing value for money, serious riding and family fun into one experience.

"Each of the ranches has a wide range of activities such as horse-riding, hay-rides and cattle driving, as well as sports including tennis, basketball, golf and swimming."

She said many of them are located close to San Antonio, so guests could easily mix the lifestyles and attractions of town and countryside.

Jetset prices range from £70 to £91 per person per night, and aside from car and motorhome rental, Harley Davidson bikes can be hired from £42 a day.

Travelpack has also jumped on the Texas ranch bandwagon and introduced three options this year with prices from £65 per person twinshare until October 31 or £421 for a week.

Children aged six-12 years are charged £34 a night and 13 to16 year-olds £46; £230 and £306 respectively for one week.

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