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Specialty travel company acquires Adventureseek

Travel company Unexplored will announce Monday that it has added the online guide to its cadre of specialty travel sites.

Travel company Unexplored will announce Monday that it has acquired Adventureseek, adding the online guide to its cadre of specialty travel sites.

Unexplored, a privately held company based in San Francisco, will place the 2-year-old travel-booking service into its group of off-the-cuff travel sites. Through the acquisition, 15-month-old Unexplored will gain relationships with Adventureseek?s 450 travel providers, including Abercrombie & Kent and Backroads. Unexplored will also link its resort automation technology to the Adventureseek Web site.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Unexplored, a holding company for specialty travel sites, has been quietly building up its technology and travel partnerships during the past 15 months. Last spring, Unexplored bought ResortAutomation.com, a technology company that specializes in automated phone systems for booking vacations. And earlier this month, the company launched a safari travel site called Safari.net. It has also partnered with fly-fishing site WorldWaters.com.

?We offer a suite of business services to our family of business partners to reduce their overhead and provide better economies of scale,? said Unexplored president John Gordon.

?We bought Adventureseek because they were already one of the best-thought-of adventure travel sites out there and they will add to our own management team,? he said.

This week, the company also plans to open a travel reservation site for high-end resorts and spas, called Grandtrunk.com.

Unexplored also plans to release a Web-based version of its automated booking technology in the months ahead so that consumers can book vacation packages in real time, without using the phone or email.

Online adventure travel is coming into vogue, analysts say, because it?s the next step for travelers who have warmed up to the Web for researching and purchasing air, hotel and car rental services. About 16.5 million travelers booked trips online in 1999, which is up over 200 percent from 1997, according to nonprofit Travel Industry Association of America.

And adventure travel is on the rise with U.S. adults. One half of the U.S. population, or 98 million people, have taken an adventure trip in the past five years, according to TIAA.

?The next wave, and possibly more profitable wave, is to see how travel package companies and cruise lines can sell on the Internet,? said Joshua Friedman, senior analyst at research firm IDC.

Online travel stalwarts such as Expedia and Travelocity have been ramping up such vacation services as cruise bookings in an effort to increase their markets and compete better in the industry.

?Travel packages are bigger margins,? Friedman said, adding that to compete in the travel industry Web sites need to capture a larger market than just air, car, and hotel reservations.

Adventureseek is backed by REI and Andrew McNally IV, the former chairman and CEO of Rand McNally & Co.

Unexplored?s investors include such individual investors as Bill Hambrecht of WR Hambrecht & Co., Cristina Morgan of Chase H&Q, and Allen Wheat of Credit Suisse First Boston; as well as institutions including Wand Partners and Allen & Co.