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Orbitz to launch revamped Web site

The online travel site is expected to announce as early as Monday a streamlined look and faster Web pages, as the travel industry picks up speed.

Online travel site Orbitz is expected to announce as early as Monday a redesigned home page, in an effort to streamline its look and increase the speed of loading pages.

The company's redesign comes as the travel industry is picking up speed, and rival Travelocity.com has donned a new look. Under its redesign, Orbitz will scale back its home page to two categories from four and cut the time it takes to load a page by half.

"We wanted to simplify our page," said John Samuel, Orbitz's executive vice president of consumer travel. "Folks said they were coming to Orbitz, because they knew where they wanted to go and wanted to book their trip, and others wanted to take a family vacation and were looking to us for ideas."

As part of the redesign, Orbitz is broadening its search area by 40 percent for travelers who already know their itinerary and want to book travel plans. This category will include a "Quick Search" feature, which allows users to search for flights, hotels or cars without having to leave the home page.

The second category highlights various promotional deals and allows people to narrow their search based on certain topics, such as family trips or long weekends.

"A lot of online travel sites started with offering a place to shop for (airline tickets), but now, people have the expectation of going to a single site and booking it all--their air, hotel and car," Samuel said. "Earlier travel Web sites focused on the transaction, but more consumers are using them as a research tool."

Orbitz decided to move forward with the redesign last spring. The anticipated unveiling of the new site will be its first revamp since last summer.

The company has about 23 million registered users and hopes to garner more with its new look. But it's even more focused on increasing the frequency of use by its current customers.

"We'll focus more on how to increase the engagement of a typical Orbitz user," Samuel said.

Travelocity launched its redesigned site in March with similar goals. The online travel company has noted at investor conferences that its users prefer its new look two-to-one over the old one, based on external research studies. It also said its users are spending more time on its site.

Samuel shrugged off any effect that Travelocity's redesign might have on Orbitz, noting that the travel industry is experiencing a "nice recovery," so comparisons are difficult to gauge.

"The category is growing at a nice clip right now, so it makes those kind of comparisons a bit hard to see," he said.