Travel Weekly's Home-based Agent E-letter: Nov. 1, 2004

ARTA AND OSSN will be among the trade groups represented at a sitdown session with the sponsor of a bonding bill in Pennsylvania on Nov. 9. The bill, as originally written, would impose strict bonding regulations on nearly all agencies, including home-based ones. The groups, which have a history of opposing state regulations of travel sellers, said they are urging an alternative approach, public-private partnership to create a statewide consumer education program. They said they believe "a more positive approach" of working with consumers to prevent or deter scams will be more effective than new law. Besides, they said, existing state laws prohibiting fraud and other financial crimes are sufficient ammunition for law enforcement to fight scams.

THE TWO GROUPS also object to the Pennsylvania proposal because it exempts from its terms any "seller of travel that is a nationally known membership organization or is traded on a national stock exchange in the United States." That means Expedia, Travelocity, Cendant, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Priceline.com, Hotwire, American Express and AAA are automatically off the hook, they said, while small businesses will bear all the costs.

JOHN HAWKS, president of ARTA, said his organization and OSSN will propose public-private partnerships to "fix the problem from the ground up -- teaching Pennsylvania consumers how to recognize and avoid travel scams from the get-go." At the conclusion of the Nov. 9 meeting, Hawks said their final plan will involve "a proposed bill with the single objective of increasing criminal penalties for travel scams in Pennsylvania, and a statewide consumer-awareness campaign that gives travelers the red flags to watch for with scams and the top two or three tips for avoiding such scams."

DATEBOOK: A National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents seminar, featuring training, workshops and networking, will take place aboard Oceania Cruises' Regatta during a 12-night Caribbean sailing departing Dec. 9 from Miami. The member rate is $699 plus port fees and taxes; nonmembers add $100. The itinerary and registration form is on line at www.nacta.com.

FAM OF THE WEEK
North America
Dates valid: Through Feb. 28 for two consecutive nights
Sponsor: Kimpton Hotels, San Francisco
Cost: Starts at $99 per night for the first night, free for the second night. Rate is based on single or double occupancy.
Trip: The Travel Agent Free Spree is valid at all 36 Kimpton properties in North America.
Contact: (800) KIMPTON or visit www.kimptonhotels.com.

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