Thursday, July 20, 2006


For the last 8 months I've been working with BlackHistoryTours (BHT). The company was founded 6 years ago by Eric and Lisa Alboher. Since its creation, the primary focus has been on escorted bus tours for inner city youth to African American cultural sites. By creating tours around African American heritage sites (e.g. National Civil Rights Museum, the National Voting Rights Museum) BHT is using tourism to educate and inspire African American youth. In September, BHT will launch a new Website and booking capability (using EzRez) to position the company as a major African American travel portal for heritage travel. The National Trust defines cultural heritage tourism as "traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present." According to the Travel Industry of America, 81% of the 146.4 million U.S. adults who took a trip of 50 miles or more away from home in the past year can be considered cultural tourists".

The nationwide launch of BlackHistoryTours (BHT) will serve as a model for a family of companies that will include other ethnic segments (e.g. HispanicHeritage Tours, HolocaustHistoryTours) all focused on cultural heritage tourism. The company is currently seeking additional investment. If you know of any potential investors please contact me at

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

GDS contracts

I thought I'd chime in on the current industry focus regarding total access fees and the renegotiation of GDS contracts. I tend to look at this issue in a very black and white fashion:

  • Financial incentives for travel agents (and TMCs) are going away. Whether this is the first step (e.g. Sabre, Galileo) or a complete elimination (Worldspan) of these payments, it is just a matter of time until these funds disappear
  • No travel agent or TMC can depend on total content from a GDS no matter what happens with the remaining hold outs (e.g. AA and Sabre, DL and Worldspan)
  • Larger TMCs have already implemented technology (e.g. CWT's Symphonie, Amex's TravelBahn) to aggregate content. Second tier TMCs and below need to lean on their consortium to find a solution to this aggregation problem
  • The Air Canada Tango issue is only the tip of the iceberg of the coming changes in how airline inventory is distributed. With all due respect to BTC, I am not hopeful that a negotiated solution to this issue will be reached.
At the end of the day the bottom line is that the airlines are continuing to bleed and the intermediaries and in some cases corporate customers will ultimately have to pay the price.

HP's "Memory Spots"

Yesterday HP announced a new "inexpensive, wireless, battery-free microchip that can store documents, audio files or video clips. The memory spots are similar in some ways to the more simplistic radio-frequency identification tags. But they are far smarter and more secure: They can store more than 250 times as much data as RFID, transmit data more than 20 times faster and encrypt it, sidestepping many of the privacy concerns over RFID tags." This new technology has significant implications for the travel industry. In the Mercury News article the reporter describes the new microchip as "an electronic Post-it note" that can store" dozen of pages of text, a 15-second video clip or other data" and that the results can be viewed on a screen of a cell phone that's waved in front of the chip, doing away with the need for a computer or Internet connection." This technology will be a crucial step towards what Howard Rheingold has described in his book Smart Mobs as "sentient things". The ability for anyone to annotate a physical location such as a restaurant, hotel or guided tours, places social networking into our every day lives. For example, I was on vacation the other week in Monterey California and my wife and I took a whale site seeing tour. Unfortunately during the 3 hour cruise we saw only two whales for about 4 seconds. If this tour company had memory spot at its offices I could have looked at reviews of this tour from other travelers and probably would have learned that whale sightings was rare that week. Now take that same line of thinking and expand it out to other travel spots such as hotels and restaurants and you can quickly see how HP's new memory spot technology will radically change our travel experience. The new technology is 2-5 years away from mass production, but has the potential to permanently change the way we interact with the physical world.