The Travel Technologist logs off

Farewell, Travel Technologist. Good-bye, Biztravel.com.

I never imagined I’d have to write this column. But now, because of circumstances that no one could have anticipated, I do. We’re history.

Before I sign off, though, I wanted to do a few important things.

First, to apologize. Some of you turned to Biztravel.com and to the Biztravel Bulletin last week looking for commentary on the World Trade Center incident and its implications on travel technology. You didn’t find any.

I wish I could say that I skipped last week’s column for all the right reasons. Maybe the tragedy had affected me in a personal way – or maybe I was too upset to write anything, as some of my colleagues were. The truth is that I didn’t write the Travel Technologist for all the wrong reasons last week. I’m sorry for letting you down and grateful to those of you who cared enough to contact me.

But my embarrassment is eclipsed by another emotion: sorrow. Not just for victims of September 11, but also for Biztravel.com, which is closing up shop.

This is a difficult loss for me. I was Biztravel.com’s founding editor. I remember publishing the very first Biztravel Bulletin in 1996, at a time when the Web was still little more than a tool for academics and technophiles. I remember assembling its first editorial staff, a dream-team of industry writers who did an admirable job of covering the business of business travel. I remember pushing to have the site renamed Biztravel.com from its unwieldy given name, the Business Traveler Online.

I left Biztravel.com in early 1997, only to return in 2000, two owners later, to become its travel technology columnist. The site had moved from South Florida to New York to Philadelphia. It was in many respects better than the one I’d helped create. It had a new booking engine, cutting-edge content and the backing of the most creative travel management company in the industry.

The latest incarnation of Biztravel.com seemed to have everything going for it – a corporate owner with a keen understanding of technology, loyal customers, the drive to innovate and the expertise to pull it off. But in the end it couldn’t control outside circumstances. The dot-com downturn. An advertising slump. And a terrorist attack that appears to have crippled the travel industry.

I hope Biztravel.com will be remembered for all the things that it did right rather than for what went wrong. None of its competitors have managed to duplicate its ground-breaking news and commentary. Its technology, from booking systems to wireless offerings, was absolutely first-rate. But what will always set Biztravel.com apart from the other travel Web sites is its guarantee – a comprehensive warranty that the travel industry desperately needed. It’s something the industry still needs.

Finally, I’d like to say “thank you.”

To my colleagues at Biztravel.com, Ronnie Smith and Missy Debach, for their intelligent, careful editing efforts and their unwavering professionalism. Every columnist should be fortunate enough to work with someone as good as you.

To the other columnists on the site, Joe Brancatelli, Randy Petersen and Dan Verdick. It was a real honor to work with you.

I’m also very grateful to Hal Rosenbluth for taking a chance on Biztravel.com.

But I am most thankful to you, dear readers, for your questions, feedback and support. You were always there for me, whether I was writing about a hot-button issue like cell phones in cars or reviewing comparatively dry peripheral devices. Your comments were engaging, informative, at times even amusing.

I will miss Biztravel.com. I know you will, too.

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