s the B-word coming back to the travel
industry's GDS display screens?
Our lead news story in the July 26 issue may prompt some travel
retailers, and others, to claim that Sabre is trying to "sell bias"
or reintroduce bias into the GDS. We think that claim would be
premature at best and wrong at worst.
In fact, given that the Transportation Dept.'s GDS rules expire
on July 31, we think it's time to retire the B-word and look at
this phenomenon from a fresh perspective.
Today's GDSs are nothing like the GDSs that gave the B-word a
bad name. In the bad old days when bias began, the GDSs were owned
and operated by airlines. They were considered in-house marketing
The government stepped in to outlaw overt bias on GDS displays
of airline data because an airline that happened to own a GDS was
thought to have an unfair competitive advantage: the ability to
skew the display in its own favor, to the detriment of the GDS'
airline and travel agency customers.
That paradigm is gone, and that kind of bias is gone. No GDS
today is managed to line the pockets of one airline owner in the
way that Sabre or Apollo once were.
Far from it. The GDSs of today are scrambling to keep their
costs and services competitive with direct and Internet
distribution in the face of market trends that are reducing the
size of the subscriber base as well as the universe of interested
In an unregulated market, which is what the information industry
ought to be, if a GDS can make a buck by selling screen positions
to travel suppliers, we say, "Fine, let them try." As we see it, a
paid listing is not the same thing as the "bias" of old. That kind
of bias was evidence of a dysfunctional market. In today's
environment, a paid listing in a GDS should be seen as evidence of
a functioning marketplace because the market will decide whether or
not it works.
Our only concern -- and it is a deeply held concern because of
the business we are in -- is that any GDS going down this road
should respect the difference between the delivery of information
and the sale of advertising. As we have said before, we believe
advertising to be an honorable endeavor. Neither buyers nor sellers
should try to disguise what he is doing. A paid listing should look
• • •
A code of conduct
here are some no-brainers in
life and a few no-brainers in business. In the travel business,
signing on to a code of conduct condemning the sexual exploitation
of children should be a no-brainer.
In another story we report in the July 26 issue, a handful of
travel industry organizations have signed on to a code of conduct
developed by Ecpat International (End Child Prostitution, Child
Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).
Shouldn't it be the other way around, where everybody has signed
on except a handful?