Online travel tries new tricks

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Stacey Vanek-Smith: Summer is usually peak travel season. But high gas prices, expensive airfare and shrinking budgets have people staying home. Now online travel agencies are working to gin up business. One idea: Orbitz will start offering vacation rentals. Renita Jablonski has more.


Renita Jablonski: Priceline began offering a refund earlier this summer for rained-out vacation packages. Last week, Travelocity added a guide to booking cheap travel. Orbitz started the summer promoting a new program for refunds on airfare.

Orbitz commercial: Orbitz price assurance: If another customer books the same flight for less, we'll automatically send you the difference in cash.

Now the company's touting the option to book private homes or condos instead of hotel rooms. Hey, you can trim travel costs by cooking your own meals and not having to pay for hotel parking.

But Jack Plunkett, CEO of Plunkett Research Limited, says Orbitz made the decision with something else in mind:

Jack Plunkett: Uh, to make more money.

Plunkett says commissions on vacation rentals and packages are typically higher than other areas of travel.

Plunkett: If this works out well for Orbitz, just watch everybody else to get in line and do it, too.

Orbitz is offering about 30,000 properties with partner site Zonder.

I'm Renita Jablonski for Marketplace.

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