or a state that supposedly understands mass-market tourism, you'd think Nevada would get its head screwed on right before it tries to regulate sellers of travel. Alas, the state legislature didn't do that, and neither did Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, who signed into law the requirement that travel sellers post a $50,000 bond, letter of credit or CD if they are not accredited by ARC.

What makes ARC so special? Good question. Apparently, there lives on in the Nevada body politic the quaint notion that you're not a "real travel agent" unless you have that all-important "airline appointment." Nobody told Nevada, but those days are gone.

It would be easy, and not wrong, to dismiss the Nevada legislation as the well-intentioned effort of some misguided lawmakers, but this bit of legislating underscores a question that this industry still has to confront with solidarity: Who is a travel agent?

For years, airline accreditation was widely accepted both inside and outside the industry as a reasonable place to draw the line. Even today, some hotels pay commissions only to airline-accredited agents. Can you really blame Nevada for drawing the line at the same place where Marriott draws it?

The prime mover behind the legislation, Nevada consumer affairs commissioner Patricia Jarman-Manning, had this to say: "We've got people coming to Nevada, putting signs on doors saying they are a travel agent, taking people's money and then leaving. It's unfair to the public. I'm willing to work with the industry, but this is an industry that hasn't done anything to police itself. There are no requirements [to sell travel], no training for people to go through, no consumer protection."

She overstates the case, but her remarks make clear that when a state government asks, "Who's a travel agent," and it doesn't get a good answer, it's perfectly capable of making up a bad one.

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