Things are looking up. There are still too many trouble spots in the world, but it's time to stop and notice that spring is here, the recovery is real, and the travel industry is again awakening to new possibilities.
One of those new possibilities arrived in Dallas last week in the form of a Qantas 747, making its inaugural flight from Sydney. Not so long ago, getting from the continental U.S. to Sydney necessarily involved a trip through California or Hawaii. Not so anymore.
We haven't welcomed everything that the airline alliances have brought forth, but it is interesting to see the possibilities that arise from global networking.
The combination of Qantas and American under Oneworld makes Dallas a viable gateway for the South Pacific. Houston, likewise, may become a gateway to New Zealand for United/Continental and their Star Alliance partner, Air New Zealand.
Bottom line: Agents and consumers have options they didn't have before.
Also looking at new beginnings:
• The venerable Hickory consortium, which has a new name, Hickory Global Partners.
It also has a new parent company. With the retirement of its longtime chief, Bill Chiles, Hickory was acquired by the Traina Cos., parent of the InteleTravel agency hosting network. The company, which also has hospitality and real estate holdings, said it intends to consolidate its travel properties into a new unit called Intravel, a combination that could lead to some new twists.
• The assets of the former Ambassadors venture into small-ship and river cruising.
Lumped in bankruptcy under the Windstar umbrella, the Ambassadors cruise assets were acquired by billionaire entrepreneur Philip Anschutz. His Anschutz Corp., parent of Xanterra Parks & Resorts and other ventures, created a new subsidiary for the acquisition called TAC Cruise.
Given the ups and downs of the river cruise market in the U.S., it's far too early to tell where this could lead, but it sure sounds like good news for the Windstar brand.
• The Corporation for Travel Promotion, which finally has a CEO.
Former Best Western boss Jim Evans was recently selected by the corporation's board to be the first CEO, which should greatly accelerate the organizational work that the board has capably begun.
Having formerly headed an organization made up of independent hoteliers sharing a common brand, Evans may be uniquely qualified to lead a broad-based industry effort to promote the U.S. brand in overseas markets.
That's a new beginning for the inbound market that can't happen soon enough.
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Outrage update:Last week in this space we mentioned Amadeus as the likely source of a deficiency in the flight displays of several online agents who had to pay fines to the Transportation Department because the displays didn't adequately identify the participating carriers on certain codeshare flights.
Amadeus, after initially declining to comment on the matter, has since advised us that "certain of the online agencies that recently entered consent orders with DOT for violations of codeshare disclosure rules are not Amadeus customers, and others are multi-GDS users."
We continue to believe that the DOT overreacted to this situation and that the true culprits are the GDSs powering these displays, whoever they are.