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Online travel bookings on the rise

But airlines' Web sites aren't as popular as other travel sites, according to a new survey of business and leisure travelers.

A growing number of people who hear the call to travel head online to book their plans, according to a new survey.

The percentage of people who book travel directly online through Web sites such as Travelocity.com or Orbitz rose from 16 percent to 21 percent between October 2001 and August 2002, according to the survey. The survey, sponsored by travel and tourism trade group The Travel Business Roundtable and online travel site Orbitz, polled business and leisure travelers.

Airlines have worked hard to get people to buy tickets at their Web sites, and have struggled with how to deal with rival online travel sites. According to the survey, the percentage of people who booked online directly through the airlines actually dipped slightly, from 19 percent in October to 17 percent in August. Research has shown that the hotel industry faces similar troubles.

The survey found that while just 13 percent of those over 50 years old primarily used travel Web sites in August, that number rose to 32 percent for people in the 18 to 34 age group.

The survey focused for the main part on the effect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on travel. While 69 percent of those surveyed in August felt that things were "back to normal," three in 10 travelers felt that security measures were insufficient; and 11 percent said they reduced their level of flying because of airline security-related "hassles."

Roughly three-quarters of people surveyed said the amount of travel they do has remained the same since Sept. 11. But the means of travel have changed, with 44 percent saying they find themselves driving to out-of-town trips more frequently than before the attacks.

And despite executives' attempts to put on an upbeat face, there have been some signs that the airline industry is struggling since Sept. 11. For example, earlier this month, US Airways filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Travel Business Roundtable is a trade group that lobbies and handles marketing for the travel and tourism industry. The poll, conducted by Pennschoen and Berland Associates, polled business and leisure travelers.