Last year, virtual travel agencies booked just 2.7% of all business
travel, but that percentage is expected to grow dramatically over the next few years, to 18.9 % by 2004, according to Forrester Research. Why go online to book your travel?
Quite simply, it gives you more control, the ability to quickly research
options, and, in some cases, significant cost savings.
Soon you can see new Web-based options, too, following a spate of recent
announcements of new travel Web sites sponsored by
major airlines. The newest venture, nicknamed T2, will include such
major air carriers as American, Continental, Delta,
Northwest, and United among its equity partners. It plans to offer
discounts you can now only get through the individual
airlines' Web sites. But don't get too excited just yet: The American
Society of Travel Agents has asked the U.S. Justice
Dept. to investigate the airlines' new venture into cyberspace, which could spark antitrust concerns.
One trend to note: the rise of small-business travel sites that, in
effect, act as your outsourced travel department. They
include Rosenbluth Interactive's Biztravel@mycompany, American Express
One's RezPort, and CompanyTRIP.com. In September, 1999,
Denver-based TRIP.com, an online travel agency, launched companyTRIP.com
to serve small companies. All three of these sites put
their small-business clients in negotiating pools to get them
better deals with savings of as much as 40% off fares and
In addition to these small-business-specific services, you'd do well to
check out the following Web sites. While anyone can click on these sites,each one has features that are appealing to smaller companies.
A favorite of small companies whose
travelers have to city-hop and piece together trips. Its "Build
your Own Trip" service lets customers see all the available round-trip
fares even when choosing each leg, making it easier to
piece together the legs that best fit their schedules and budgets. In
fact, you can see a matrix of up to 1,200 itineraries vs.
the half-dozen that most sites let you view now. Another appealing feature:
you don't have to register to see information.
Good for entrepreneurs
who have to fly out at a moment's notice. Its new My
Travel Minder feature lets users enter up to five different requests
with travel preferences, along with the prices you're
willing to pay. You'll get an e-mail whenever a bargain on that route
becomes available. The site will also save your favorite
searches. For example, if you frequently travel to San Francisco, you
can quickly click on that search and find out what's
available at a discount. Companies including airlines American, Continental,
Delta, US Airways, and United and hoteliers Hilton, Hyatt,
Marriott, Swissotel, and Westin all sell their last-minutes seats and
rooms via this site.
If your company is in an area with
several local airports, its new alternate airport
feature is helpful. It will automatically search nearby airports for
better fares and schedules, and alerts you to better deals
with a display of the airfare savings and additional driving miles
involved. Also, its Road Warrior feature serves as a
communication center, currency converter, and variety of other business
travel services. The company, whose acquisition of
Preview Travel will be completed in June, has "flight paging" that
delivers alphanumeric pages about flight changes, delays, and
arrival and departure times for as many as four different flights.
Best for gamblers, who are certain that
their schedules won't change. You can name your own
price for hotel and airfare service as well was for Budget Rent-A-Car on
this popular site. However, if a better deal comes
along you're stuck, and you can't make any changes or get a refund.
Best Fares (www.bestfares.com or 800 635-3033)
If you like to mix
business with pleasure, travel guru Tom Fares' site is a
good one for ferreting out good deals for popular travel
destinations. However, you must become a member for $60, which gives
you access to the site and 12 issues of Best Fares magazine, which is
chock full of the latest deals.
Frequent Flyer (www.oag.com or 800 323-3537)
Suits air warriors who
want to make the most of their miles. Travel expert
Randy Petersen does a masterful job of sorting through all the latest
rules and deals related to frequent flyer miles.
The Ticket Portal (www.travelskills.com)
This is perfect for small-business
travelers with a yen for inside information on
the travel industry. Chris McGinnis, author of The Unofficial Business
Traveler's Pocket Guide and founder of the Travel Skills
Group, keeps you up to date on special airfares and changes in the
travel industry that affect you.
The Ticked Off Traveler (www.ticked.com)
Need to let off steam or
commiserate with other frustrated business travelers? This
site features half a dozen columnists who delve into traveler's tales of
woe. You'll find advice and ways to fight back on this
site, and message boards, too.