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New territory for Net travel

Travel is a hot property in the consumer e-commerce space, and players Expedia, Internet Travel Network, and Biztravel are expanding.

While content such as sports stories and stock quotes have garnered subscription dollars on the Web, the hot e-commerce property of late has been travel.

Analysts have noted that travel represents one of the largest electronic commerce areas for consumers. To that point, Jupiter Communications has a conference under way to examine the developments and strategies of the online travel industry.

Net businesses of many stripes--always eager to grab consumer dollars wherever possible--have responded to the trend. Netscape Communications, for example, added a travel area to its Netcenter site earlier this year, in its effort to compete with rivals such as Yahoo, Excite, and America Online--all of which have travel sections. All those sites are aiming to be portals to the Net, so they constantly add features to attract loyal users.

Given its value to consumers, Top Net performers ranked there is stiff competition in the online travel space. The portals generally incorporate content and functions from one of the big players in the Net travel area, such as Preview Travel, Travelocity, and Epicurious Travel, published by CondéNet. Preview Travel is considered one of the fastest-growing Net stocks by Digital Video Investments.

Another player, Internet Travel Network (ITN), which provides online travel booking services and technology, yesterday announced four new partnerships on its roster: local city guide CitySearch, CMP's online magazine NetGuide, local central Florida tourism guide Go2Orlando, and travel search engine The partners will incorporate ITN's booking services and information services into their own travel offerings.

Microsoft also has a large presence in the online travel space with its Expedia site. The company says Expedia did more than $12 million in travel sales in January.

Expedia launched a Travel Network in January, which Microsoft touts as a "one-stop travel shopping mall offering vacation packages, cruises, resorts, and travel merchandise from many leading suppliers." The company yesterday said that since its launch, the network has generated more than $1 million in additional revenues for its partners, which include Online Vacation Mall, Amtrak, Celebrity Cruises, Delta Vacations, and Golf Travel Online, among others.

Microsoft also announced that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has become the first international licensee of its Microsoft Travel Technologies platform for booking flights online. KLM also will incorporate content from Expedia on its site. A Microsoft team will redesign the KLM site to incorporate the technology. The redesign is scheduled to be completed this summer.

The Microsoft Travel Technologies platform includes the back-office server and end-user application for making air, hotel, and car rental reservations through the Internet., a Net company serving frequent business travelers, also expanded its service with an alliance with virtual community firm Global Network Architects (GNA). Under that deal, the two firms will offer online airline, hotel, and car rental reservations within GNA's communities.

One of the alliance's clients is Sheraton Hotels, which is readying an in-room interactive communications service via television, according to Biztravel. The in-room service will offer guests the alliance's travel reservation features.