SideStep Adds Package Deals

On Monday, travel search service SideStep launched one-click shopping for travel packages, which includes flights and hotels.

“We are the first player in travel search to enable consumers to come to one place and with one click search multiple sites for vacation deals,” said Phil Carpenter, SideStep vice president of marketing.

The package search service launched with partners Vacation Outlet, Pleasant Holidays and Orbitz, and SideStep plans to add more soon. SideStep handles custom integration with partners’ databases of destinations, flights and hotel fares, according to Carpenter.

“The challenging thing about the travel world is that you have all these different sites that use different languages to communicate with partners,” Carpenter said. “You can’t sit around and wait for them to learn to speak your language; you have to become a polyglot and speak all of them.

With 4.2 million unique visitors per month, SideStep can help extend the audience for travel sites, Carpenter said. The company gets paid for qualified leads it delivers to partners.

Travelers prefer packages because they can be cheaper than booking hotels and airfare separately, according to the company, while travel providers like the higher profit margins they can deliver. Carpenter said a lot of travel companies have been actively pursuing the packages market in the last year or two.

The online travel market is hotter than an August afternoon. On Friday, Sabre Holdings , operator of Travelocity and a provider of software to the travel industry, bought, a European discount travel site.

And in late 2004, the Travel Industry Association of America reported that 64 million Americans went online for travel information last year and 44 million made at least one reservation. The industry group saw growth in online bookings for packages and tours, as well, with 16 percent of Internet bookers buying travel packages in 2004.

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