SideStep Starts Beta of Vacation Package Service

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Travel search engine SideStep Inc. yesterday introduced the beta version of a vacation package service that lets consumers search multiple sites simultaneously for getaways to more than 90 destinations worldwide.

The new functionality extends SideStep's searches from flights, hotels, cars and deals to a vacation package segment with far higher margins for travel agencies. Orbitz, Vacation Outlet and Pleasant Holidays agreed to promote their packages on SideStep, Santa Clara, CA.

"This ability to see results from numerous sources with a single click is precisely what consumers want as opposed to having to search different sites one by one, a process which is both time consuming and frustrating," said Phil Carpenter, vice president of corporate marketing at SideStep.

The foray into vacation packages also aims to consolidate the one travel segment that requires the most investigation online. Market researcher Gartner Inc. claims that travelers check an average of 4.1 sites before booking a hotel and 4.2 sites for flights. But they check 5.8 sites before booking vacation packages.

PhoCusWright, a travel industry researcher, predicts that online package sales will grow to $10.3 billion by next year, a 368 percent increase in three years. By 2006 the firm expects 13 percent of all air, car and hotel sales booked online will be done as part of a package.

The furious growth of companies like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, SideStep, Kayak and Travelzoo reflects consumers' increasing preference to buy travel services online. Convenience, ease of booking and price comparison are factors that have made travel the No. 1 e-commerce category.

SideStep attracts 4.2 million consumers monthly to its site. More than 8.1 million SideStep toolbars have been downloaded to computers.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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