From the May 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

Just when you thought your favorite hotel Web site couldn't get any better-surprise! The next generation of lodging sites will offer new ways to track your miles and find inexpensive rooms quickly. You'll also be able to access them using wireless devices. Look for the changes during the next few months.

"Personalization is a big issue for hotel Web sites," says Forrester Research's Henry Harteveldt. "The newest sites will allow you to enter your loyalty programs, track your miles and redeem them online. They'll also offer a way for you to choose properties by geographic location."

Top 10 Hotel Sites
1.Radisson
2.Hilton Hotels
3.Bass Hotels
4.Marriott
5.Westin Hotels
6.Luxury Collection
7.Sheraton
8.W Hotels
9.Choice Hotel Group
10.Country Inns & Suites

The new sites will also be more streamlined so they'll download faster and be easier to use than their predecessors. Sites that were once bulked up with marginally useful travel content will be stripped down to emphasize form and function.

Even if you've previously struggled with hotel sites and hate booking rooms online, visit these new sites and here's what you'll find:

Personalized content. The new sites will use cookies to identify you. They'll note your geographic location, your room preference and what kind of hotel you like to stay in. From time to time, you may also get e-mail with deals specifically targeted to your usage patterns.

Real-time quotes. Visiting previous generations of Web sites, you suffered from a time delay. Even though you may have seen a room vacant on the site, another guest may have reserved it since the last time the listing was updated. Thanks to technological improvements, hotel inventory will now be offered in real time, so what you see is what you get.

Bonus points. In the old days-like, a few months ago-redeeming hotel miles was a hassle. Balance statements arrived by mail and were redeemable only by phone and through the mail. The newest hotel sites will let you not only track miles online, but also cash them in without ever having to pick up the phone or lick a stamp. Many hotels will also update you by e-mail when your balance changes.

A better connection. Expect the most forward-looking sites to work better with wireless devices.


Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at www.elliott.org.


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