ETC's VisitEurope.com to add public booking

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NEW YORK -- The European Travel Commission plans to introduce a consumer booking capability to its VisitEurope.com portal, while at the same time beefing up the site's support for travel agents.

ETC chairman Einar Gustavsson acknowledged that an on-line booking feature would "of course" compete with agents, but the 30-nation promotional body is not turning its back on travel agents who specialize in Europe.

Consumers soon will be able to make reservations on the VisitEurope.com Web site.A revamped travel agency search page is being created on the site, which would refer visitors to agents who attended one of the European Roundtable and Supermarts roadshows as well as members of tourist board specialist programs in regions not covered by the Supermarts, an ETC spokesman said.

It has not yet been decided whether VisitEurope.com will add referrals to the specialists in those Supermart cities who did not attend the event, the spokesman said.

As for consumers booking via VisitEurope.com, the spokesman said, "We want to reach an agreement with a major site, with Travelocity or Expedia or EuroVacations, so people can go to that site and book on line if they prefer."

The Web booking feature on VisitEurope.com would link consumers to another site.

"If we could plug in the information, that's what we'd like to do," the spokesman said. For example, "If a visitor is on our page for Greece, we would like to link them to a page on the booking site that's for Greece, and I'm sure that can be done."

Gustavsson disclosed the plans in closing remarks at the commission's annual Trans-Atlantic Travel Marketing Conference, held last week at the Ed Sullivan Theatre here.

He said, "We plan to make VisitEurope a major booking site, so people can buy as well as look." He said the site attracts about 500,000 annual unique visitors.

During a recent survey of more than 750 who visited the portal site this spring and summer, 48% said they planned to visit Europe by the end of 2001, Gustavsson said.

Separately, Hertz signed on as a new partner in the VisitEurope.com promotion, joining MasterCard and AT&T.

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