Agent Issues Travel Weekly's Home-based Agent E-letter: Jan. 19, 2004 January 19, 2004 Share 1 -- LAYING THE GROUNDWORK: Representatives from virtually every major industry group, including those serving the home-based and independent agent community, took the first steps toward creating industry-wide educational standards for travel retailers. At a summit gathering in New York sponsored by the Travel Institute, participants agreed that standard training and certification programs would benefit both travel agents and consumers, and said they would move ahead with the idea of creating them. AMONG THE PARTICIPANTS was OSSN's Gary Fee, who came away from the summit confident that the industry groups are headed in the right direction. "I have to commend [Travel Institute president] David Preece for being able to corral all the associations in one place to get the dialogue going. That's never been done before." Fee said he favors standardized training programs for home-based and independent agents.OTHER INDUSTRY PEOPLE voiced support as well, but Michael Walstrom, vice president of sales for www.myhostagency.com, pondered whether there can be a certification that will "foresee the continuing evolution of travel." Walstrom also noted that many travel suppliers fund the Travel Institute. "I believe that, along with their financial pledges [to the institute], these vendors need to guarantee they will provide the agency community with all of their rates," he said. Agents, Walstrom added, "need a consolidation of training and certification, but we must not be naive -- the bottom line to consumers is the combination of price and customer service." The group of industry representatives plans to meet again for further discussions in April.DATEBOOK: Learn about riverbarge trips in the U.S. at OSSN's meeting Feb. 2 in Feasterville, Pa. The event, scheduled for Lamberti's Restaurant, 1045 Bustleton Pike, begins at 6 p.m. The meeting is free, just pay for what you eat. RSVP required by calling Paula's Travel Agency at (215) 355-9467.FAM OF THE WEEK: The Marquesas Islands/Moorea/TahitiDepartures: Fridays through March 26 from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti, via Air Tahiti Nui.Length: Seven nights.Sponsor: Tahiti Vacations, Chatsworth, Calif.Cost: $1,599 per person, double. Includes roundtrip air, accommodations, transfers, buffet breakfasts daily, rental car for one day and one dinner.Requirements: Iatan card or ARC listing.Contact by fax: (818) 775-1188. Check out more fam trips on Travel Weekly's Web site, www.travelweekly.com.