TRAVEL: Merchants of Fun

Whether he is bound for Niagara Falls or the headwaters of the Amazon, the European circuit or the Fiji Islands, the typical U.S. tourist begins his trip seated expectantly by the desk of the man who gives form to his dream: the travel agent. This year's tourist boom is sweeping a record 1,500,000 Americans into far-off lands —and most of them will get there through travel agents. Last week, at the peak of the season, the nation's travel agents were richer—and more numerous—than ever before. Spurred by rising U.S. incomes, fatter retirement...