Every month or so, a segment of the Internet gets hot. Rarely, however are these sites able to maintain the watershed of hit-rates after the media frenzy wears off.
One exception to this rule might be the current crop of travel sites. The travel industry has emerged as one of the fastest growing segments of the Internet. According to published figures by Jupiter Communications, online spending for travel services will reach 1 billion by the end of 1997 and continue toward an estimated 3 billion in the year 2000.
Travel is tailor-made for the Internet. The complexities of fares and schedules are perfect for a web-based system that can present constantly updated material. So your intrepid web-surfer took a trip of his own. I went to all the sites out there and picked out a few that might be worth your time…and your money.
I strapped into the barcalounger and headed off to http://expedia.msn.com. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t quite sure what I might find here. I mean, sure Microsoft has a lot to offer, but would I book a vacation here?
The answer is yes.
As usual, Bill Gates and company have taken the time and effort to set up a complete operation. From the excellent content at Expedia and its neighboring Mungo Park, to the customer service by World Travel Partners, Expedia is the real deal.
The site interface is well done (HTML gurus take note…there are no frames here). Everything is laid out in nested tables. It looks good and loads very fast. One of the ways that Expedia makes the user feel at home is through the use of “wizards”. Just like the guides to adapt templates in Word or Excel, the travel offers are put through in a step-by-step process that allows a good amount of hand-holding by the site. A potential vacationer will feel at home at Expedia.
According to Eric Blatchford, Expedia is designed for the armchair traveler–“it is committed to having useful content” for all users. Microsoft will spend 300-400 million dollars over the next few years developing this interactive content. Over 100 full-time employees will generate original content that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Expedia is one of the first sites that is not just a place to go when you are online–It’s a reason to get online in the first place.
The second stop on my whirlwind tour of the net was Travelocity. Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com) has the experience and the content to help anyone plan and book their vacations online. Travelocity, launched in March 12, 1996 as the premier Internet resource for the do-it-yourself traveler, is owned by the Sabre Group.
Last year alone, the SABRE reservation system processed more than 300,000,000 trip itineraries. Laid end to end, the ticket jackets for these trips would completely encircle the earth’s equator 2 times.
Travelocity users have the ability to instantly book on more than 370 airlines. In addition, reservations and information for more than 28,000 hotel properties and more than 50 car rental companies around the world are available straight from the Website. Travelocity has been able to use its relationship with the SABRE reservation system to become a respected name in the online travel agent market. Users are made aware that they are doing the same thing that a “real” travel agent does-just without the travel agent.
Travelocity is thought by many to have the best information in the Web travel business. According to Terry Jones, president of SABRE Interactive, Travelocity is a site that surfers can “use to plan their dream vacations.”
Travelocity’s former partner, Worldview Systems, provides all site content. Worldview Systems offers the largest proprietary online travel and entertainment database of events and attractions around the world. Through partnership arrangements with leading travel information suppliers, Worldview’s database also includes annotated descriptions of golf courses, U.S. national parks and recreation areas as well as travelogues and frequent flyer information. This content is an impressive part of what Travelocity can offer a user. Recent feeds include a guide to US parks and in-depth travelogues by author and photographer Lee Foster.
After leaving Travelocity, I headed on down to Travelon. Travelon is a package vacation one-stop that uses the Internet to offer attractively priced adventure vacation deals. If you are looking to go somewhere out of the ordinary, point your browser to
According to Director of Marketing Andrew McKee, Travelon is a site geared to the Adventure traveler. With 2,000 package deals ready for purchase, it is the complete solution for those people that want to go off the beaten track. For instance, by allowing the user to search by activities like camel riding and rock-climbing, Travelon grabs these action adventurers and delivers exciting offers right to them.
Travelon uses its relationships with Delta and other travel providers to cull last minute deals for the leisure traveler. Over 30 gateway cities from the Delta family work together with Travelon to provide these bargains. Eventually, McKee expects to form a club of Travelon users. This frequent buyer club will be structured like the frequent flier programs and will require a nominal fee to join.
The Travelon site is a great example of how the design of a site can guide and comfort users. You pick from a menu of travel options including prices and destination. Travelon then sorts out the trips that fit your profile and delivers them to you.
One of the last stops on the tour was Atevo. Located at http://www.atevo.com, Atevo is a recent addition to the travel services sphere of the web. Atevo is the brainchild of Hyun B. Shin.
This site takes a different approach to the travel game. Atevo is meant for the young traveler. It describes itself as a “young, globally oriented site”. It is a hip, fun experience. Shin emphasizes the net ideal of community throughout the build of the site. The site has a large collection of AOL-like bulletin boards so that members can interact with each other.
Shin also wants his users to contribute to the site in the form of pictures, travelogues, and links to personal pages. By making the user feel like they are a part of the Atevo site, Shin hopes for return visits unrelated to travel. Shin is making the site into a place to chat, to browse, and to meet people like you.
The site prides itself on its wealth of travel information, thanks to its link to the Weissman Travel Reports databases. Atevo has info on 330 destinations and over 700 maps.
After looking at all these leisure sites, I surveyed some that dealt with business travel. The best of these is The Trip.com. (http://www.TheTrip.com) The Trip.com is “everything for the business traveler…except the stress.” This comes from the man behind the bytes, founder and visionary Antoine Toffa.
Launched in September of 1996, this Denver based company targets the beleaguered business traveler. Toffa tries to give this market everything he can to make their lives a bit easier. “The business traveler is accustomed to finding the products and services that they need in a timely manner. They don’t have the time to spend idly surfing.” That’s why the Trip gives the user the opportunity to book travel, hotel rooms, and rent a car all at the same place.
The most interesting thing on the site is the real-time Flight Tracker. Using this service allows you to identify how many flights are in the air at any given moment, track the airspeed of those planes, and see the ETA for these flights. Even if you aren’t booking, you can use this to check flights that friends or relatives are on.
The Trip wants to become the number one resource for the business traveler. I think it has the chance. Toffa is a compelling personality who really wants to help the business traveler. If you book your own business travel, The Trip.com is a sure thing–go there.
All the travel sites on the Internet ask you the question, “Where do you want to go today.” These five help you answer it. Surf over and check them out. Tell them My Mac sent you!
Brian Harniman (firstname.lastname@example.org)