By Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

BOSTON (CBS) – Charlestown businessman Jim Cloonan saw a travel trend developing in 2003.

He has been successful and Boston is better for it this week.

Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

Cloonan has brought his Home Based Travel Agent Forum to town for its semi-annual meeting at the Hynes Convention Center and The Sheraton Boston Hotel.  The other meeting is held in Las Vegas.

Even though storefront travel agencies have been sharply reduced, agents working from home have found a profitable niche.

750 of these agents are booked into the Sheraton Boston Hotel for the next three days along with suppliers for tours and travel that will be exhibiting at the Hynes.

Monday morning gave Boston a chance to showcase the city with a joint presentation by Massport Aviation and Cruiseport Boston along with the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism and the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

It was not until the last presenter, Nick Bellows, Deputy Port Director Sales and Marketing did any of the speakers show any visuals or have any printed materials for the agents.

The best news of the day was delivered by Massport Aviation Director Ed Freni.

He said that the April start-up of Japan Airlines flying from Boston to Tokyo was on schedule and the new Boeing Dreamliner, needed to make the trip, would be delivered early next year.

In its first year, this new Boston-to-Tokyo service should have an economic impact of over $100 million to the state’s economy.

The Las Vegas presentation, an hour after the Massachusetts session, was in sharp contrast to the home team effort.

The presentation by Las Vegas included videos of ads and attractions.

There was also time for questions and three hotel stay give-aways, which are always popular with travel agents.

John Meyer from the Las Vegas convention bureau said that Las Vegas was on track to do 38.3 million visitors and the hotels are averaging an 85.2 percent occupancy rate this year.

Travel agents who specialize in destinations are still in demand and doing business.

Bob Weiss and “All Things Travel” can be heard weekends on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.


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