Travel Weekly's Home-based Agent E-letter: Oct. 8, 2007

THE DECISION by Carnival and Royal Caribbean to no longer pay commission on air tickets is causing a small amount of anxiety for home-based agents, the majority of whom specialize in cruising. "It will affect my revenue," said Kristin Webb-Walker, who operates Ships 'n Sand Travel from her home in Sheridan, Ark. "While it wasn't a lot of money, 5% was certainly better than nothing. I do not charge a service fee for booking air, so earning anything at all on air associated with cruise bookings is completely wiped out for us." Webb-Walker, who said 90% of her bookings are for cruises, added that she will continue to quote air through the cruise line, and "whenever it is the best option for my clients, it will be my recommendation." Frank Hryszkanich, owner of Travel, Ports & Voyages in Old Bridge, N.J., predicted that agents would turn to competitors that are still paying commission on air. "The move does not represent a financial hardship for us, but it certainly doesn't make the agents want to rush out and promote [these lines]. We're here to make money. If one company cuts off monies to us, you start moving your business to their competitors," Hryszkanich said.

A HOME-BASED AGENT in Michigan launched a Web site designed to help consumers locate travel retailers who specialize in a destination or niche. Sandy McDowell, owner of France Journeys, founded the group and took the wraps off the Specialty Travel Agents Association and its site, SpecialtyTravelAgents.com, which will have a searchable database of member agents. She describes it as a "premier resource for promoting, educating and expanding the business of specialty travel agents through active marketing and advertising." Founding officers of the association are Raynette and Ray Owens, who own McDowell's host agency, Smithfield Travel. Annual membership fees start at $199. Those interested in joining can e-mail Joanne Sanborn at [email protected]. The association will be represented at the Home Based Agent Show in Atlantic City, N.J., Oct. 29 to 31.

ZONDER, a vacation rental service featuring private homes, condos and villas, said its products now are available through Worldspan. Zonder's XML interface provides Worldspan customers with access to extensive vacation rental content, including property photos and detailed amenities, up-to-the-minute availability and rates, integrated bookings and immediate confirmations when any Zonder vacation rental is booked in Worldspan. Bob Barnes, CEO of Zonder, called the partnership "a great leap forward for the vacation rental industry."

DATEBOOK: The OSSN Richmond/Norfolk (Va.) Chapter will meet on Oct. 9, at 6:30 p.m. for a dinner seminar featuring Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. The chapter will welcome OSSN agents as well as non-members at a local restaurant. A representative from the two cruise lines will demonstrate the newest e-tools available for agents on the CruisingPower.com booking site. Agents should RSVP via e-mail to [email protected].

FAM OF THE WEEK

Guatemala

Trip: Spends one night in Antigua, two nights in Atitlan and four nights in Guatemala City. Also features a full-day excursion to Tikal.

Departure: Oct. 23 from Miami to Guatemala City.

Length: Seven nights.

Sponsor: Tara Tours, Miami.

Cost: $1,099 per person, double. Includes roundtrip air, accommodations, most meals, transfers and sightseeing.

Noteworthy: The rate for a second agent is $100 additional. Departure taxes are not included. Companions are eligible at an additional cost.

Contact: (305) 278-4446; fax: (305) 278-4454; e-mail: [email protected].

Home-Based Agent Editor: Donna Tunney

Phone: (508) 221-3674

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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