'Londontown' site can be a one-stop resource for trip planners

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NEW YORK -- How often does the Heathrow Express train leave for Central London?

Where do we board the river boat for Hampton Court Palace?

What kinds of millennium events can we attend?

These are the kinds of questions agents can expect to be asked by clients who have booked air tickets and a couple of hotel nights in London. The answers can be easily found on line at www.londontown.com, a comprehensive Web-based resource produced by the London Tourist Board.

The site is split into six information categories: millennium, conventions, accommodations, events, pubs and entertainment. A click on the millennium icon brings up a list of planned events tied to Year 2000 celebrations, including location, a brief description of the event and a contact number in London.

Under conventions, meeting planners can search for venues suitable to various group sizes. The accommodations button launches a search mechanism based on price and/or location. Consumer bookings are processed by the London Tourist Board Accommodations Booking Service.

The service, which does not pay commissions and charges consumers about $8 per booking, is the same one that is operated at tourist board kiosks in London. The Web site's events area contains various happenings in the city, and the entertainment section is split into subgroup listings, such as nightclubs and West End theaters. The pubs option is a searchable database of watering holes, tagged by neighborhood.

A Visitor's Choice box on the home page offers Web browsers information on specific attractions including river trips; the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; royal palaces; museums; guided tours, and markets.

It also has a section for airport transfers; clicking the option called Getting From the Airport provides choices of transportation modes from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, London City and Stansted airports. Train and bus schedules from each airport into central London are shown, with ticket prices.

Under river trips, visitors will find a full schedule of departure times, embarkation venues and prices of boat excursions to places like Hampton Court Palace, Kew Gardens and Greenwich.

Web visitors also can search for neighborhood maps. Browsers can request a map based on landmark, street name, underground station or theater name. These can be printed out and given to clients. A special deals icon recently advertised an air and hotel package by British Airways and Forte Hotels. It was a three-night plan priced at $519 per person and commissionable to agents.

Yet to come on the site is a section called The Guide Book, which will have more detailed information on restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping and fashion. The Guide Book and a new section called Giftshop are slated to debut on the site in June.

The tourist board Web site also has links to other relevant Internet sites, including UK Weather; the British Broadcasting System; London Transport, and the Evening Standard.

A pub for every occasion

NEW YORK -- A search of London pubs on www.londontown.com, the London Tourist Board's Web site, turned up this sample listing:

  • Shakespeare's Tavern, 99 Buckingham Palace Road, providing the "best fresh fish and chips in London."
  • Shepherds Tavern, 50 Hertfort St., located in the "fashionable and wealthy area of London, namely Mayfair," and serving traditional English pub food.
  • Coach & Horses, 5 Bruton St., "one of London's smallest pubs."
  • Golden Lion, 51 Dean St., one of the "last few traditional pubs in Soho" that "still has its original exterior."
  • Leicester Arms, 44 Glasshouse St., "offering a wide range of real ales and wines."
  • Pub listings also show hours of operation, telephone numbers and the nearest underground station. -- D.T.

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