Can the travel technology business learn anything from the airlines? (Pause for laughter.) It occurs to us that the rise and reputed decline of airline hub-and-spoke systems may have a corollary in the rise and widely predicted decline of GDSs.

What is a GDS, after all, but an information hub?

In the airline world, hub-and-spoke systems have gone from being a good idea to being the only idea, and are now back to being merely an idea thats not for everyone, but that works well when its done right.

The emerging consensus seems to be that while consumers value point-to-point service, particularly by low-cost carriers, there is also great value in networks that can flow traffic through hubs to and from out-of-the-way places.

Getting from Yakima, Wash., to Macon, Ga., for example, will take a day out of your life and then some, but without a network, youre on your own. There wont be a nonstop flight for $59.

Is this the future of GDS-based distribution? Handling reservations traffic for smaller entities that dont have the volume to justify direct links? The GDSs certainly dont think so, but a mere decade ago, the big hub airlines didnt think that the Southwests, AirTrans and JetBlues of the world would be taking traffic and driving down rates in some of their fattest markets.

Competitive pressures have forced the hub airlines to rethink the role of the hub and the nature of networks. They have retooled and rescheduled. They have formed alliances and have eliminated redundant hubs. Assuming the airline industry ever gets back on its feet, we suspect the hub carriers left standing are going to have pretty efficient networks. We suspect youll still be able to get from places like Yakima to places like Macon.

What remains to be seen is how suppliers and intermediaries in out-of-the-way places will connect with each other when the dust clears in the technology sector.

The next generation

The people who complain that ASTA never does anything should take note of our news report today about the recent meeting of the Young Professionals Society, an organization created by ASTA to engage the industrys younger generation.

Membership is open to agency and supplier personnel, and ASTA membership is not a prerequisite.

The Young Professionals Society hasnt solved any of the travel industrys problems, yet, but we think its a safe bet that among its 400 members are some people who will be contributing to significant solutions in the years ahead.

The Young Professionals Society was and is a good idea. Most of us older folk dont hear much about it very often, but it deserves the continued support of ASTA and the supplier community as well.

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For more details on this article, see ASTAs Young Professionals Society looks to grow.

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