Travel Weekly's Home-based Agent E-letter: Aug. 16, 2004

HOME-BASED AGENT Greta Inowlocki, owner of inTrend International Travel, said she got fed up with online agent forums that allowed access to non-agents and that were, in her words, filled with rude and nasty comments. So she did something about it. Inowlocki, whose agency is in West Nyack, N.Y., two years ago created an online forum only accessible by home-based retailers. It started with a few people, she said, and now has regular postings from about 50 at-home travel sellers. Besides exchanging information about sales opportunities or suppliers that dont pay commissions in a timely manner, subject forums include recommended tour operators; suppliers in financial difficulties; useful sites; forms and documents; consolidators, and cruise groups.

INOWLOCKI said she and other like-minded at-homes decided they didnt want suppliers reading or answering their postings, and they disliked some of the comments posted by brick-and-mortar agents about how at-homes are know-nothings who just want the benefits of being a travel agent. Inowlocki, who has operated her home-based agency for five years but has been in the industry for 15, said she asks for credentials from any home-based agent who wants access to her forum, which her son, a real computer expert, created. I ask for information on agency letterhead. I ask for ID numbers such as IATA or TRUE. And I check their Web sites. Sometimes I call them personally, she said. Theres no cost to join or use the forum. At-home agents can contact Inowlocki by email at [email protected].

ORBITZ, in a bid to reach out to agents -- particularly home-based ones without preferred-supplier relationships or GDS access -- rolled out an affiliate program that pays a flat affiliate transaction fee of $5 for air, $6 for retail hotel, $12 for merchant hotel, $2 for car, $22 for cruise and $16 for packages. After registering, an agents booking activity on Orbitz would be tracked through their e-mail address or ARC or IATA number. More information is available at Orbitz.com. From the home page, click Become an Affiliate.

THROUGH THE PORTHOLE: Silversea Cruises added a third Beirut cruise to its lineup for 2005. The 15-day voyage, on May 26, begins in Istanbul and calls in Kusadasi, Turkey; Rhodes, Greece; Tartous, Syria; Beirut; Alexandria, Egypt; Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya; Valetta, Malta; and Liparti and Rome, Italy. The lines May 11 cruise, which sails the reverse itinerary, already is sold out. Its Oct. 30 cruise calls in similar ports on an eight-day voyage.

DATEBOOK: Delta Queen Steamboat Co. will be the topic of discussion at an event Sept. 9 in Stamford, Conn., sponsored by National Trade Shows. The event is being held at the Italian Center of Stamford, 1620 Newfield Ave, Stamford, and will begin in 5 p.m. There is no admission cost to agents. The hourlong event will be a seminar about Delta Queen Steamboat. RSVP required. Call 800-526-0041.

FAM OF THE WEEK

Croatia/Italy

Departure: Sept. 4 from Venice, cruise only.

Length: Eight days aboard the Dalmacija.

Sponsor: Sterling Vacations, Austin, Texas.

Cost: $549 per person, double. Includes oceanview cabin accommodations, all meals, entertainment and sightseeing.

Trip: Visits Brioni, Dubrovnik, Korcula, Mali Losinj, Pula, Rovinj, Sibenik and Telasica, Croatia, and Venice, Italy.

Noteworthy: Port taxes are additional. The companion rate is $649. Two-night extensions to Slovenia can be added for $299 per person.

Contact: (866) 345-7755; fax: (512) 345-7722; e-mail: [email protected].

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