CruiseWorld, Home Based Travel Agent shows open in Florida

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As Travel Weekly hosts more than 1,300 travel agents today at the combined CruiseWorld 2010 and Home Based Travel Agent Show and Conference in Fort Lauderdale, our editors will be filing continual reports to TravelWeekly.com about the speakers, panels, ship inspections and social gatherings that make up the two conferences.

As a run-up to the events, we asked some of the panelists and other participants to share with our readers what they see as major challenges and opportunities for their own businesses and for the travel agent community at large.

Senior cruise editor Johanna Jainchill found increasing unease within the cruise sector, which is heavily dependent on the agent channel, about the inexorable aging of the agent population.

How, they wonder, can we make cruising seductive to the youth market when there are almost no young people entering the retail travel profession? How can we recast the image of the cruise as a retirement appendage for blue-haired ladies if the only people selling cruises are boomers?

CruiseWorld 2010 Home Based Travel Agent ShowSenior editor Michelle Baran discovered a growing sense among the tour operators and river cruise companies she covers that ocean cruising might not be their nemesis after all.

A tough competitor, yes, but also a potential source of partners and collaborators in developing hybrid land/cruise products that expand the nature of the vacation experience for landlubbers and cruisaholics alike.

Experimentation with several new models promises future products that will transcend categories and attract new clientele to the market.

Travel Weekly editor emeritus Nadine Godwin, who covered retail travel in one form or another for almost four decades, turned her attention to the home-based agent.

Once considered a sanctuary -- or, more cynically, a hibernating cave -- for brick-and-mortar agents bloodied first by commission cuts and then by 9/11 and the Great Recession, the home agency, it turns out, is something else entirely.

Whatever might have initially motivated agents to move their enterprises to their homes, it is the continuously accelerating evolution of technology -- coupled with savvy employment of enhanced social networking techniques -- that has enabled the home-based agent to prosper during the toughest economy in seven decades.

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