Heres our first impression of Cendants proposed acquisition of Orbitz: It looks like a good deal.

Its good for the airline owners of Orbitz, who need the cash more than they need to be in the travel distribution business. Were not sad to see them leave that business, and we suspect we are not alone.

Its also good for Orbitz because the company will now have an owner that can afford to invest in it and take its various innovations to the next level.

And its good for Cendant in various ways. For one thing, it puts the company in a position to marry the best of the legacy technology from Galileo and the new technology of Orbitz. This will be good for other Cendant brands, but, more to the point, this marriage could be good for the rest of the industry, in the way that royal weddings used to be arranged to end feuds and wars.

Many traditional travel agents originally feared Orbitz because of its threat to the GDS and travel agency sales channels, and some still do. To those agents, it should be a cause for some optimism that the next phase of Orbitzs evolution will occur under the auspices of a company that understands those channels and is already invested in their future.

That is a matter of no small consequence.

There even may be an upside for suppliers in this consolidation. Generally speaking, we tend to be suspicious about consolidation and bigness, but there is a downside to fragmentation, and we suspect that suppliers are growing weary of the proliferation of sales channels and Web sites demanding preferred arrangements and merchant deals. Viewed in that light, the possible integration of Orbitz with CheapTickets.com and/or Lodging.com may be welcome prospects.

Of course, the pundits have been saying for quite some time that theres room for a lot more consolidation in travel technology and distribution, both within the U.S. and in overseas markets.

The real test of this deal, and the deals that will surely follow, will come in a few years when we and other armchair strategists look back and try to remember what all the fuss was about.



Amtrak Vacations

Shortly after its creation 33 years ago, Amtrak made the decision to have a tour program, and it has had a tour program, of one kind or another, ever since.

After the demise of its private-label operator last week, Amtrak did the right thing and made it clear to agents and consumers that it would make good on all paid-in bookings.

Still unclear is Amtraks future commitment to offering a nationally branded vacation product. We hope Amtraks decision-makers vote to keep and expand the product. In fact, Amtrak should take this opportunity to make it easier for travel agents to learn about and sell vacations built around rail travel.

We believe there is and ought to be a place in the industrys product line for more and better rail tours.

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