A walk on the wild side

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As I walked the trade show floor at the ASTA congress in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, I sought out companies that were not in the show a year earlier, or indeed, that might not have even existed last year.

There were plenty, and not surprisingly, many had some kind of dot-com connection.

I was intrigued in equal measure by another focus: special-interest or adventure travel.

There was Uncommon Voyage, a California-based entity that promises access to some of the world's most exotic destinations, whether the client's interest is nature, specialty trips, active travel or culture.

This is a budding consortium: Lisa Brandes, owner of Voyages Travel, is recruiting other agents with specialty niches to join the network.

I was enchanted by the Uncommon Voyage booth with its display reminiscent of scenes from Indiana Jones movies.

Not far away, Atlanta-based eGulliver (a dot-com with a niche focus) also sought agencies with specialties to join a network. They are promised referrals from the eGulliver Web site.

The attention-grabber here was the garb. Deslie Webb, founder and chief executive officer, was jauntily decked out in khaki shorts; others in her group had dressed to represent various travel interests, too.

ASTA was barely over and we wrote about the creation of the Adventure Collection, a marketing alliance of six adventure travel operators. (To read about it, click here.)

The group aims to be a source of adventure travel information for agents and the public, said Jan Cooper, vice president of sales for Lindblad Expeditions, a founding member.

In the same issue, we reported on ExpeditionTrips.com, a new Web company that aims to disseminate information on 30 companies that offer small-ship cruises and to act as a wholesaler for those same firms. It claims to have the only Web-based searchable database on this product type.

We knew adventure travel is growing in popularity; also, adventure tour firms are more interested in retailers than has historically been the case.

The feelings are mutual: More retailers want to sell exotic products, too. After all, you can make some real money and collect happy, repeat customers.

The timing could not be better for a new Travel Weekly feature that highlights active/adventure travel. To read that story, click here. Because the focus is on small-ship cruises, you will find more on ExpeditionTrips.com there.

Each month, we'll highlight other facets of active/adventure travel. The series also will include features on special-event travel. Look for the series. And send us an e-mail with your suggestions.

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