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Orbitz offers new hotel search tools

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Kai Ryssdal:Slowly but surely, summer is winding down. Hopefully you got some quality vacation time in while it lasted or that you've got come coming up in the next couple of weeks. Today Orbitz, the online travel agency, made a play for your holiday dollars. The company said it's going to step up its hotel search options so you can really check out potential vacation digs. Actually, the whole industry on that side is innovating like mad, because in spite of the "eh" economy, online travel is really doing well.

Marketplace's Stacey Vanek Smith has more.


Stacey Vanek Smith: Orbitz's amped up site lets visitors compare amenities like pools and see detailed photos of the hotels. The site also uses Google's Street View map to let you see what's nearby.

Orbitz CEO Barney Harford.

Barney Harford: Is it a pawn shop or a Starbucks across the road, or you can go and see which hotel has the best view of the ocean. At Orbitz, we have a laser-like focus on the hotel opportunity.

A big reason is money. Online travel sites make a lot more off of hotel bookings than plane tickets. And those bookings are up. Douglas Quinby is with travel research firm PhoCusWright. He says sites like Priceline and Expedia are thriving.

Douglas Quinby: They've actually grown, while the rest of the industry has been suffering.

That growth hasn't gone unnoticed. Microsoft is in the online travel game and Google paid $700 million for a travel site last month.

Henry Harteveldt is a travel analyst with Forrester Research.

Henry Harteveldt: Google's purchase shows that the value of online travel is quite substantial and Google wants to have a bigger piece of that pie.

A pie that's expected to be worth $80 billion this year and more than $110 billion in 2014. Harteveldt says all the sites are competing on price. So to stand out against all the competition, sites have to be more thoughtful about how they sell trips.

Harteveldt: We are seeing established players work to improve the search process to help people based on the need for more emotional shopping, not just price shopping.

Because no one wants to show up for their beach getaway and discover their "ocean view" requires x-ray vision.

I'm Stacey Vanek Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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