Expedia Adds Visa, Passport Services

The always-competitive online travel business was one of the first e-commerce
areas to demonstrate that success could be had using the power of the
Internet.


And now it’s more competitive than ever, as witness a proliferation of ads
such as those from discount travel site Hotwire and the pop-unders being used
by airline consortium site Orbitz, and announcements like the one today from
Expedia.com introducing new visa and passport services.


Bellevue, Wash.-based Expedia crowed that it is the
“first online travel site to provide assistance with passport and visa
services,” but you can bet your frequent flier miles that it won’t be the
last.


“Monkey see, monkey do” is becoming a mantra in online travel, especially
since the sites are competing for fewer travel dollars following the events
of Sept. 11. Fort Worth, Texas-based Travelocity.com and
Expedia both
launched ski areas
on their sites within days of each other last October.
And Priceline.com has a fairly new category called
“resorts” in its hotel section.


Expedia said it signed a strategic alliance with Express Visa Service Inc., (EVS), a
full-service travel documentation procurement company. Financial arrangements
were not disclosed.


Expedia said visitors planning to head overseas now can research travel entry
requirements for any country.


Worldwide visa and passport registration forms can be downloaded and sent
directly to EVS. Travelers can link to “Passport Information” throughout
Expedia.com in the “Traveler Tools” box sidebar and within all confirmation
e-mails and itineraries related to international travel. In addition, EVS is
available to answer visa and passport-related questions 24 hours a day, seven
days a week via a toll-free number.


EVS says it hand-delivers customers’ visa and passport documents to the
appropriate embassy or consulate, saving time and ensuring a smooth
experience. Travelers can easily check the status of their documents online
throughout the process. Additional services include a Health and Travel
section with information on required vaccinations and recent international
health news, as well as an Express Registration Abroad service enabling
travelers to alert their local embassy about their visit.


“Travelers may not always be aware of the specific documentation needed to
enter a country. It is our goal to ensure Expedia travelers have this
knowledge and are prepared for their trip,” said Mike Day, senior vice
president of operations for Expedia.

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