Mergers have gotten some bad press in recent years, particularly in the airline biz, but there's a travel merger being talked about in Washington these days that we like. It's the combination of the Travel Industry Association and the Travel Business Roundtable.

If you're far from Washington and more concerned with commerce than politics, you might not care much, but you should care a little. Like it or not, commerce and politics are like money and power. They attract each other. That's why the Washington phone book is full of national associations lobbying for every area of commerce from the Air Transport Association to (we are not making this up) the American Zinc Association.

But in the words of Bill Connors, who heads the National Business Travel Association, "Part of the travel industry's problem as an industry is we have always been thought of among the decision-makers in Washington as a fluff industry," lacking the economic and political clout of, say, farming or steel.

For as long as we can remember, the Travel Industry Association has been preaching to its members that this industry needs to develop a measure of political clout (power) commensurate with its economic impact (money).


If the broad-based TIA can advance that goal by merging with the Travel Business Roundtable, a smaller, quieter group consisting of influential CEOs and other senior travel executives, then we're all for it.

And it's not just about convincing the federal government to fund a national tourism promotion effort, though that's a fine place to start.

It's also about a broader vision for our transportation systems and the need to make them balanced, more integrated and energy-efficient as well as more secure.

It about the need for an education system that gives our young people a curiosity about the world and a respect for other cultures.

It's about an attitude toward work that recognizes the value of vacations to our well being and our overall productivity.

It's about understanding that the indirect effects of our economic and political choices are not always immediate or obvious.

This isn't steel or zinc, but it's hardly fluff.

On never saying never

Remember when Expedia Inc. acquired Classic Vacations and some agencies started bad-mouthing Classic? The Virtuoso consortium went so far as to dump Classic altogether. They kissed and made up earlier this year. Classic is back on Virtuoso's preferred list.

And do you remember when InterContinental Hotels Group parted company with Expedia over the hotel company's list of distribution dos and don'ts for Web sites?

Well, that was then and this is now, and as we report in the news pages this week, they're back together.

All of this gets us to thinking about how long Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and YTB will be staring at each other across a moat. It won't be soon, but we suspect that this situation will eventually resolve itself, as well.

There's too much business to be transacted for such large entities to have such large enemies for long periods. We see it over and over.

Business conquers all.    

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