Travel Planning Online: Virtual Visits Give Travelers a Head Start

Article excerpt

More travelers are visiting cyberspace first to plan their vacations and business trips, thanks to the growing resources available on the Internet.

Hotel chains, airlines, cruise lines, tour companies, and individual resorts are establishing sites on the World Wide Web that make it possible to browse through online "brochures," compare offers and amenities, and even make reservations directly. Information that was previously available only to travel agents is now open to everyone, and business and vacation travelers can now do much more to take charge of their own travel.

By 2000, online travel sales are expected to reach more than $3 billion, a tenfold increase in just five years, according to a recent estimate. Various forecasts for Internet marketing predict that the travel market will make up almost 50% of all sales made online by the turn of the century, according to Michael Shapiro, author of NetTravel: How Travelers Use the Internet.

Key benefits of researching travel options through the Internet include: the sheer quantity of up-to-date information available, the convenience of accessing it from your desktop or laptop computer, and the ability to interact with other travelers interested in the same destinations.

If you are interested in visiting a particular city, you might find listings of hotels and restaurants and important sights to visit, just like a guidebook. …