Space Coast aims to link agents, clients through Web site

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- An Internet tool linking prospective clients with travel agents is slated for operation by August, according to Rob Varley, director of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council.

The council's Web site is at www.space-coast.com, and the new program is designed for retailers who agree to book Florida Space Coast vacations.

"In the next couple of weeks, we'll be sending out 3,000 to 4,000 mailings to travel agents -- just to see who bites," Varley said.

Agents will be asked in the mailings to call or write back, indicating their interest.

The mailings will be followed up by posters and other materials, which Space Coast officials hope agents will display in their agencies.

Agents will not be required to take part in any educational program on the Space Coast, but they will have to agree to make Brevard County's materials available to clients.

Varley also hopes to bring retailers to the area on a fam tour.

Varley, who said he does not know of another destination-marketing organization undertaking a similar program, said the effort reflects his belief that people still want to use travel agents despite the growth of the Internet in booking travel.

"Most of our [potential visitors] are shopping the Internet but not buying. I think [the Internet] is being used more as a research tool," he said.

"People don't have the time to do their entire shopping on the Internet."

Varley said he would be "more than happy" if his effort ended up with several hundred participants.

He also envisioned future cooperative programs for the agents involved.

When consumers visit the council's Web site, they will be offered access to travel agents in various geographic areas.

Users will have their choice of booking direct or selecting an agent to help them.

There will be no exclusive referral territories, so larger areas may have more than one agent available.

The Space Coast includes major attractions such as the Kennedy Space Center, the Merritt Island National Seashore, the Astronauts' Hall of Fame and the Florida Marlins' baseball spring training site.

Communities here, many of which are home to resort hotels, include Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Indialantic, Indian Harbour Beach, Melbourne and Melbourne Beach.

Melbourne Airport and the Port Canaveral cruise port are also located in Brevard County.

The tourist council had originally hoped to get the Internet project in place last spring, Varley said.

"The reason for our delay was simply that we had a lot of other things to do first on our Web site. For instance, we had to redesign the whole thing. Then we had discussions on how to promote it," he said.

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