Have e-mail, will travel

Technology and The Weather Channel affect bookings

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Thinking about a weekend get away to the mountains, a beach vacation or even a three-week trek to Katmandu? Thanks to technology, you no longer have to book

travel weeks or months in advance. More people are booking only two weeks out thanks to e-mail and the Internet.
In fact, some are cruising Web sites and purposely waiting to book later, so they can score a last-minute deal. At the Virginia Beach Resort and Conference

Center, General Manager Stacey Patrick has seen a 28 percent increase from 2006 to 2007 in bookings based on advertising through search engines such as
Expedia and Travelocity, while reservations from print advertisements fell 27 percent. “That’s where people are looking,” she says. “It’s easier. People like
being able to shop and not have to pick up a phone to call five different places.”

The General Francis Marion Hotel in Marion is also seeing increased bookings thanks to recently added search engine capabilities. “Our advertising and
marketing program is pretty much online,” says Sam Russell, a marketing consultant for the hotel. He adds that the hotel’s online reservation system
complements, rather than supplants, traditional marketing efforts.

Travelers also rely on the Web to check out the weather forecast before making vacation plans. “They’re very weather minded, especially in the summer,” says
Patrick. “They can go to [The Weather Channel’s Web site] and see the forecast for the next 10 days.” If the weather is sunny, that’s good news
for beach resorts, but when the weather is bad, Patrick sees a spike in cancellations.

Weather is not always the main concern, though. Some travelers suddenly find themselves with several weeks of free time and decide to book a trip to such
far-flung places as South America or Tanzania. In the past, such journeys had to be planned months in advance. With the growth of e-mail over the past two
years, they can now be planned within minutes. “It used to be buying the tickets was as much an adventure as the trip. Now, we move everything back and forth
by e-mail,” says Peter Rudy, North American director of KE Adventure Travel in Denver. “A lot of times with seven to 14 days out, we’re able to go online,
look atvery trip we have and book it instantly. There’s no more mailing or faxing.”

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