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Travelocity.com Touts New Tech Features

Five years ago, travel shopping and buying Internet site, Travelocity.com Inc. opened its virtual doors using a simple HTML loaded browser.

Now, 80 wireless partners later -- and swallowing offline airline competitor Northwest's decision to offer commission free online tickets -- the company is touting new technology features. The assortment of changes it has in store for users include ramped up information gathering services piped in from Genisys, a Prosoft system software user.

What perks does the company's new system architecture offer consumers familiar with bigger offline airport venues and well-versed in other online competitors, like LowestFare.com and Expedia?

For one, it's boosting a virtual travel agent, which, among other offerings, displays a passenger's itinerary with separate flight segments to choose from. The virtual agent books flights and makes hotel arrangements, while at the same time queuing up ground transportation and referencing a user's calendar of choices.

A spokesperson for the Texas-based company said the revved-up script the company is using combines segments of information cued up by the user, automatically reads flight choices, and performs hotel lookups for a destination.

"We've taken a look at customer frustrations and found that user's demand speed and choices," said the spokesperson.

While speed and choice are certainly important qualifiers when making online travel choices, passengers who surf without brand loyalty are oblivious to whether the tickets they buy are from Expedia or directly from an airline. Simply put, they want the best market price they can find.

With that in mind, the company is attempting to increase customer satisfaction by offering round the clock customer service and a shop with a friend service that allows people to type in a password and browse vacation spots together.

Other changes include offering a travel club that includes perks and discounts and an option finder, which advises members about alternate dates and cities where lower fares may be available. The company has also rolled-out a Travelocity.com Mastercard.

The introduction of a credit card is one more step in the company's marketing effort to keep customers coming back. Part of the card's appeal is a reward's feature which converts spent dollars to usable points. The company's spokesperson said a user would earn one point per dollar and after 8,000 points -- no small feat for a target audience that gets a high from finding bargains -- a $100.00 voucher.

In a statement, Goldman, Sachs & Co. said Travelocity.com's decision to ramp out it's services would improve its standing in the travel marketplace, but maintained its MO rating due to the "overhang of the pending launch of Orbitz and pressure on commissions, which is beginning to abate, and uncertain economic conditions.

We believe the winners in this fragmented market will be those that can move sales online by providing consumers a complete travel solution, defined as offering convenience (via technology, merchandising, search), selection (access to supply), and information (content, pictures, maps), at a fair value. We believe the service enhancements announced by TVLY aid the company in its evolution toward becoming a complete travel destination."

In the future, Travelocity.com said it intends to build out its site design with better navigation, features and a continued e-mail marketing campaign.

Airline Web sites are drawing new visitors faster than online travel agencies, narrowing the lead the agencies currently enjoy in the large and growing e-commerce segment, according to market research firm Jupiter Media Metrix.

Jupiter said unique visitors to airline Web sites in February rose 26 percent, to 10.4 million, while visitors to online agencies rose 7 percent, to 15.4 million, versus the same month a year earlier.