Tate to launch package holidays

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The Tate is to go further, quite literally, than any other British cultural institution in exploiting the commercial potential of its name - by branching out into the travel business.

In what will be seen by some as creative thinking, and by others as yet another example of the arts selling out to market forces, Britain's most-visited galleries are to launch their own package tours. Holidaymakers taking "Tate-inspired" trips will be accompanied by curators from Tate Britain and Tate Modern, encouraged to study works of art and antiquities - and even draw pictures of these using Tate-branded pencils and sketchbooks.

The Tate says it is launching the holidays to give the travelling public the benefit of its "vast range of knowledge and experience of cultural centres", but some will detect a more pragmatic motive.

Last year, the chairman of the Tate's trustees, David Verey, warned that government underfunding had left the galleries facing a deficit equivalent to £1.5m by 2004.

"The Tate Holiday Collection" is a collaboration with the Magic Travel Group, which has become the tour operator of choice for the well-heeled middle classes. The mix of city breaks and longer forays is billed as the ideal introduction to "major cultural centres" such as Rome, Florence, Barcelona and Lisbon.

A "Tate-inspired" break is not exactly cheap. A two-night stay in Venice will set you back £395, and a seven-day tour of Catalonia will cost £750. But the Tate insists it is offering excellent value for money. The Venice trip is being over-seen by the gallery's resident specialist on the Italian city.