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Yahoo FareChase Gets You a Room

Yahoo today expanded its FareChase travel search engine to include search for hotels.

The hotel component of FareChase searches multiple online travel agencies and hotel sites to provide results to users. They can then refine their searches by various cities (i.e. location, amenities, and price) and also look through maps and user reviews and ratings.

"This beta launch marks just the beginning of what we are capable of providing for travelers and will continue to leverage our world-class search technology and content to provide the most valuable travel search solution to our users," said Yen Lee, Yahoo general manager of travel, in a statement.

Yahoo's expanded travel offering comes as part of a surging travel search market that has been heating up over at least the last six months.

Last month, AOL launched a new travel Web site of its own, PinPointTravel.com, which is powered by its partner Kayak.

At the end of September Cendant bought travel site Orbitz for $1.25 billion.

A number of firms (including Cendant, AOL, Yahoo and others) are all chasing the travel search rainbow, which, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA), was a booming market in 2004. A 2004 TIAA report noted that 64 million American went online for travel information and of those 44 million made at least one reservation.

Online hotel search and bookings may well be a particularly strong market if recent research is accurate.

At the beginning of March 2005, research firm Keynote Systems released a study that showed users prefer to book accommodations online as opposed to other methods, including using a travel agent. Only 16 percent of Keynote's 2,000 survey respondents said they were willing to use a travel agent to book hotels.

57 percent said they would be willing to use a phone reservation system, and 67 percent said that they would likely book on a hotel Web site.