Traveling at the Speed of Late

Travel seems to be the summer-hot e-commerce sector these days, seeing actual growth in dollars spent online as well as more competition. And just to underscore the increased activity comes a deal with AOL that will boost exposure for LastMinuteTravel.com.

The Atlanta-based listing service, featuring discounted prices for airline seats and hotel rooms that are about to go begging, signed a deal with AOL Time Warner, making its offers available across the travel channels of AOL’s Internet brands, including the proprietary service and CompuServe.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The promotions are scheduled to begin in September and also will appear on other AOL Web-based brands. Vacation packages, cruises and car rentals are also offered.

“Increasingly both business and leisure travelers find themselves wanting or needing to book travel days or even hours before departure,” said David Miranda, CEO and founder of LastMinuteTravel.com. “LastMinuteTravel.com provides an easy solution to finding both last-minute availability, as well as exceptional values. We are delighted to bring this service to AOL’s customers.”

The service launched for consumers in January 2000 and is aimed at the estimated one-third of online-travel consumers who plan trips within two weeks of departure and the one-in-five online consumers who plan trips within one week of departure. The Web site employs patent-pending technology to merge real-time consumer demand with sophisticated revenue management systems for partner companies.

Travel is clearly emerging as an online focal point for e-commerce, as witness the upcoming formal launch of Orbitz, an airline-backed travel site that analysts think will present a bit of a challenge to established sites such as Travelocity and Expedia, both of which are already doing reasonably well financially as dot coms go. And just yesterday Priceline.com launched a name-your-own-price resort-getaway travel service.

Goldman Sachs analysts have said they believe the online travel market overall is a compelling category “because it is the largest online consumer market with an estimated $12 billion to $15 billion in sales in 2000.”

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