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Worldwide travel on the Web

A start-up venture is in the works to promote making travel plans via the Internet. Called Middlegate, the company will provide a system that will allow consumers to make travel arrangements at any time.

A start-up venture is in the works to promote making travel plans via the Internet. Called Middlegate, the company is headed by John L. Williams Jr., former general manager of the American Express Consumer Travel Network.

The New York-based company will focus on providing a system for consumers that will allow them to make or change reservations at any time. The system, code-named Marilyn, will also create a profile of each cutsomer's travel needs. "We're in the very early stages of starting the company, and we're not prepared to describe the service in detail. But we are planning to offer travel, entertainment, and reservation information," said Williams.

How will an online travel service compare with a travel agency? "There are reasons to go to a travel agent and there are reasons to use our service," said Williams. "Consumers will choose our service for the convenience and the control it offers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But many clients will continue to use travel agents; it just depends on what their preferences are."

The company plans to hit the Web during the fourth quarter at the earliest, according to Williams.