The Whale Sharks Are Almost As Big as Vegas’ Debt

I wrapped up my day of Travelcom at an awards dinner held by Travelzoo, giving out 23 awards in all sorts of travel categories. It was held at the Georgia Aquarium, and that gave me a chance first to see white Beluga whales gliding by, bumping their noses on the glass, and then the gigantic whale sharks. The female of this species are even bigger than the males, as long as 30′ and when one passes by it’s like seeing a long bus go by.

I enjoyed a long conversation after dinner with a man named Steve who works for Homeaway, the big vacation rentals site. We talked about NYC real estate and the staggering reset that has sent prices tumbling back down to about 2005 levels. He said his kids 3-hour-a-day kindergarten costs $14K a year, and that a 3-bedroom apartment is now selling for 2007’s 1-bedroom price. It’s a fine time to be buying real estate in the Big Apple.

In an early presentation this morning a venture capitalist talked about debt, and how in the travel business there will soon be a seismic shift, which will turn the biggest four on-line travel agencies into just two or three. The man’s doom and gloom included some facts about Las Vegas’ casino debt, and the trouble it will cause for them when it comes due. That’s again and again the fact of cold business reality…those with big debt face a sword of Damocles. Homeaway, by virtue of a $200 million venture capital infusion, isn’t worried about debt. It must be nice.