e are reminded by recent events of the small town that declared itself a "nuclear-free zone." There was something comical about the sound of it, but the town was taking a stand: It wouldn't buy goods and services from any company that had interests in the nuclear weapons industry.

That made the town feel good -- until it became impossible to obtain police radios without waiving the law.

In today's news we report the decision by the Virtuoso consortium to declare itself a "Classic-free zone." The decision has nothing to do with the quality or value of the Classic Custom Vacations product, but with the statements and strategies of its corporate parent.

Some agents may be cheering Virtuoso for "taking a stand," but Virtuoso has a reputation for being a savvy and practical group, not the kind of group to terminate a "lucrative" relationship merely to make a point.

Concerned that Expedia and Classic may roll out a consumer-direct strategy, Virtuoso said it is making a business decision to protect the long-term viability of its member agencies. There's more to this, in other words, than feeling good.

• • •

Carnival Cruise Lines is also a pretty savvy outfit, and we thought the line made a feel-good move in 1998 when it made its 2,056-passenger Paradise a smoke-free ship. Even workers at the shipyard were ordered not to smoke at the construction site. Now, five years after its launch, Carnival has decided to move the Paradise into a three- to four-night market where it will need the smokers.

We have no doubt that Carnival is the best judge of what to do with its assets, but we're a little sad to see this happen. A lot went into making and keeping the ship smoke-free, and once it is repositioned, those efforts will be negated for good.

But we understand the realities. In fact, once you get out to the edge of the envelope, the realities governing travel agency consortia are not much different from those governing small towns and big cruise lines. At some point, survival and making a profit ultimately trump feeling good and making a point.

The tricky part is knowing where the edge is.

• • •

We was robbed!

ust when it looked like travel and tourism was getting a little respect on Capitol Hill, the House went into its "taketh away" mode and gutted a plan to spend $50 million to promote the U.S. as a destination.

The short story line is this: Some legislators saw the money was unspent in 2003 and simply snatched it back for other projects in fiscal year 2004.

If the funds are not restored after the holiday recess, we can blame the government one more time for its myopia as we observe that other nations are spending far more to attract international visitors, at our expense.

But we also think the industry can share the blame this time for not guarding the pot. Next time, if there is one, take the money -- and run.

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