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Optimism Abounds at Home-Based Travel Agent Expo

December 5, 2008 By: Michael Browne

While the economy took precedence in most conversations at this week’s Home-Based Travel Agent Expo, the good news is that there actually is good news. While the economic situation officially became a “recession” this week, the agents and suppliers gathered in Las Vegas remained upbeat and energetic.

Many of the agents I spoke to repeated the mantra that “people are not willing to give up travel.” And when asked what they were most looking for at the Expo, the answer inevitably came back “deals for our clients.” Fortunately, the environment was ripe for deals as exhibitors unveiled a number of bargain packages for the holidays and late winter.

Interestingly, in a conference session on group travel, panelist Julia Aliseo of Cruise Planners asked the audience how many of them were new to the home-based business. Easily three-quarters of the attendees raised their hands, a positive sign for the home-based travel business. She immediately suggested that the first thing they do is align themselves with a reputable host.

This is a group that is ambitious and eager to learn, as the packed trade show floor and educational sessions confirmed. In every session I attended, speakers and attendees alike were willing to share ideas with each other, from marketing tips to choosing tech providers. The Q&A portions of the sessions were extremely vocal and interactive, with members of the audience often chiming in to answer other agents’ questions.

Working with your suppliers was another bit of sound advice offered over and over throughout the three-day conference, by agents and suppliers alike. “That’s what we’re here for,” said Marc Kazlauskas, president, Insight Vacations. “Now, more than ever, is the time to tap into that resource.”

That kind of cooperation and sense of community will go a long way to keeping business on solid footing during this challenging time.

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