CALL THEM ONLINE TRAVEL BUTLERS

Internet-based travel companies are ratcheting up the competition by offering new services. "Everybody's nailed the air-car-hotel piece," says Dean Sivley, chief product and marketing officer at Cendant Corporate Travel Solutions. "Now you need to do more to get people to the online booking." When booking through a Cendant subsidiary, corporate travel managers can now order travel medical insurance, private security services and overnight delivery of cell phones. And when Cendant learns of canceled or delayed flights, its software will automatically shift travelers to new flights and then send the information to their cell phones or PDAs. Cendant owns Travelocity, Orbitz and Travelport.

Competitor Expedia Corporate Travel is offering similar services, though it has pulled them in-house instead of partnering with other companies. Expedia has created a VIP desk for big-volume travelers who want a voice at the other end of the line. Agents find hotels with wireless high-speed Internet connections and line up goodies like theater tickets. Expedia also now has a division to plan conventions.

There are more bells and whistles coming: Cendant says it will let corporate clients assign a value to the time they spend getting from one place to another. For example, the software wouldn't even bother showing a "save $50 with a three-hour layover" option to a $300-an-hour executive. If only that fancy system could just take those tedious trips for you.

CALL THEM ONLINE TRAVEL BUTLERS | News