Top9.com

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It was bound to happen. As the travel industry becomes increasingly involved in electronic media, it was only a matter of time before somebody in our midst figured out that a travel agency's Web presence needn't be limited to the topic of travel.

How many brick and mortar agencies make ends meet by adding non-travel services, from photocopying to fluff-and-fold laundry? Lots. Now the Web has Top9.com (see story). Launched by Omega World Travel, the country's 10th largest agency in the 1999 Travel Weekly Top 50 listings, Top9.com is a Web portal, plain and simple. It has a travel component but gives that section no more play than it does pages on the arts, government and humor.

It also has a gimmick, and a good one: Rather than take its cue from hugely successful portals such as Yahoo or Excite, which are designed to keep users hanging around as long as possible, Top.9.com wants to get you in and out of their site as quickly as possible.

It's a novel concept and it works. Top9.com is not the last word in comprehensive Web searching. It's for people who need to find information quickly. Sound like something travel agents could use?

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