Travel Weekly's Home-based Agent E-letter: March 29, 2004

EUROPE BOOKINGS for summer are lively, according to one retailer who told Travel Weekly "things are hopping" at her home-based agency. Kaye Horacek, who owns Vacations Unlimited, in Waco, Texas, said she's working "nine days a week" and having to turn some business over to another independent. Horacek said FIT rail trips in Europe are selling particularly well, for travel through August. "One client told me she wasn't afraid to travel to Madrid because terrorists can hit home, too. I've heard this from more than one customer in the past year," she said. Other top-selling Europe destinations for Horacek are Italy and the U.K. On this side of the world, Horacek said cruises are a hot ticket, along with Las Vegas, Jamaica, Costa Rica and New York City. Horacek said she has missed some important industry shows in recent years because revenue was down, and this year she's tied to her desk because she's swamped with work.

NORTH OF THE BORDER: Home-based agents in Canada's Ontario Province are sorting through a series of proposed regulations, issued by the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services, which would affect independent retailers. Existing regulations do not envision at-home agents who are not tied to a host for all bookings, while the new proposals appear to acknowledge that an at-home agent does not necessarily rely on a host for every transaction. Current rules say that agents cannot register with the province unless they work in a site that is commercially zoned and that is "not a dwelling." Also, ads cannot include a residential address or phone number. By contrast, the proposed rules say agents would be able to operate their independent businesses "from a dwelling," provided that operating a business from home is permitted by local zoning authorities and they maintain a separate business telephone. Additionally, it appears at-home agents would have to disclose any connection to a host agency when a host is used in a booking. The ministry set an April 30 deadline for comments.

CRUISE PLANNERS got some hefty exposure this month. It's listed at No. 23 in Entrepreneur Magazine's "101 Top Businesses You Can Start at Home." Just one other travel firm, CruiseOne, is included in the list, at No. 30. A spokesman for Cruise Planners said its inclusion gives the company credibility, and is a testament to the "strength of the company's marketing initiatives." Many Cruise Planner franchisees are home-based agencies. The company is based in Coral Springs, Fla.

DATEBOOK: National Trade Shows will present a mini-trade show and dinner in Wayne, N.J., April 12, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. About two dozen exhibitors from various areas of the industry are scheduled to participate. There's no admission fee for travel agents. The event is being held at Wayne Manor, 1515 Route 23 South. RSVP to (800) 526-0041.

Departures: May 20 through Sept. 23 from Moscow to St. Petersburg, cruise/land only.
Length: 11 nights.
Sponsor: Ambassador Cruise Lines, Boca Raton, Fla.
Cost: $795 per person, double. Includes three meals daily; guided tours; transfers, and shore excursions.
Trip: Cruises the Volga River between Moscow and St. Petersburg, also visiting Goritsy, Kizhi, Kostroma, Mandrogi, Uglich and Yaroslavl.
Noteworthy: The single supplement is $500. Airfare can be arranged. Visa fees and taxes are not included.
Contact: (800) 255-5551 or e-mail [email protected].


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