Before we move much further into July, we'd
like to backtrack briefly. We still have a short stack of comments
and observations triggered by events that unfolded in June that
have yet to find their way into this space.
Key among these
worthy events is the partnership of Bill Marriott and Ian
Schrager. At first glance, it seemed an
unlikely partnership, pairing a somewhat conservative corporation
with a trend-setting iconoclast.
But it didn't take
long to see that the partnership made great sense. In fact, it made
so much sense that we should have seen it coming.
Marriott can be
counted on to do the unexpected when it makes great business sense,
like when it acquired the lofty Ritz-Carlton brand or when it moved
into the extended-stay segment by buying that segment's pioneering
lead brand, Residence Inn.
International's septuagenarian CEO can start a blog and move his
company into a partnership with Nickelodeon to build water park
resorts, then a deal with Ian Schrager shouldn't surprise
Marriott International is going to move into the boutique niche,
how better to do it than to team up with the guy who virtually
invented the concept?
" " "
We learned from our
June 18 cover story ["Following their scripts, agents mull 'going GUI' "]
that despite tremendous changes in travel technology in recent
years, the decades-old green screen lives on among travel agents.
If the old command line interface still has some advantages over
point-and-click screens, we suspect it has more to do with the
imperfections of the newer technology than with any inherent
advantage of the old technology.
interface is only as good as the menu, and a point-and-click
interface is only as good as the text and pictures it points to. If
it takes you too long to figure out what the smiley face means,
then the smiley face is not doing its job.
In a recent Wall
Street Journal interview about the iPhone, Apple cofounder Steve
Jobs said most people hate their cell phones. As Jobs explained it,
the technology is wonderful, but most people can't figure out the
controls and the commands and can't remember them long enough to
make use of all the features.
That could be part
of the problem with GDS efforts to adopt graphical user
" " "
kudos to ASTA and its Corporate Advisory Council for obtaining a
"technical correction" to the Texas tax code that was requiring
some travel agents to pay taxes on other people's money.
Texas levies a
gross receipts tax on top-line revenue, and it takes that revenue
figure from a company's Internal Revenue Service forms. It turns
out that some Texas agents were reporting only their commissions,
fees and merchant mark-ups as top-line revenue, while others were
reporting gross sales and then deducting most of that amount as
funds were sent on to suppliers.
Agents in that
second group were taking a serious hit from the Texas tax man.
ASTA hired a Texas
attorney to address the issue and make the case that "flow-through
funds" should be exempt from the tax.
This is a great
example of what a trade association can do to straighten out a
government muddle. ASTA's boosters should remember it when they are
asked, as they often are, "What good is ASTA?"