One of the buzz words of recent years was convergence. For a while it ranked right up there with consolidation, distintermediation, commoditization and a few other trendy jawbreakers.

Now its back. Its whats happening at Americanexpress.com.

A bit more than a year ago, the American Express Consumer Travel Network put a high priority on getting an online solution to counter the rising profile of the top travel Web sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. People were beginning to notice that a list of the top online travel sellers included no major travel brands from the brick-and-mortar past. Thus challenged, American Express is determined to become one of the top online travel sellers.

This week, American Express proudly proclaimed its latest enhancement: Its site is now built around a private-label version of Travelocity.

Convergence.

A simplistic way of spinning this tale might be to say that American Express couldnt beat them, so it joined them, but the us vs. them view of travel marketing doesnt have much going for it anymore. The evolution of Orbitz from airline tool to sibling of Galileo and Avis should have taught us that.

Selling travel on the Web is a different game than selling travel over the phone or across a desk (or a kitchen table, for that matter), but its still selling travel. Successful companies are finding that its not enough to be on the Web, just as its not enough to be in ones office. You have to work at it.

The digital divide in travel marketing does not demarcate fortifications to be defended but a gap to be bridged -- and that is precisely what Travelocity and American Express, to their credit, are doing.



Wright and wrong

We are delighted to learn that a small but growing number of industry parties want to place the Wright Amendment on the Congressional agenda next year. Southwest Airlines, a prime beneficiary of the law, has said it plans to advocate its repeal. ASTA has said it supports that effort. So do we.

For those who have forgotten the sordid history of Dallas and its airports, the Wright Amendment was designed 25 years ago to help the fledgling Dallas-Fort Worth Airport by restricting airline service at Dallas Love Field to service within Texas and four (now seven) surrounding states, with no interline or online connecting service beyond that perimeter. Thats why you cant get from DAL to New Orleans with a connection to Orlando unless you buy two separate tickets.

The need to protect DFW from the conveniently located DAL has long since dissipated, if it ever existed to begin with. Weve never liked this law. It was wrong in 1979, and its wrong now. We hope Congress finally comes around and liberates Texas from this artificial restraint on competition.

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