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Book It! Using an online travel site has its advantages for small companies.

By Christopher McGinnis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The top three online booking sites, Expedia, Orbitz andTravelocity, are out to win your business. They're nowfull-service travel agencies with robust products to help smallcompanies save big when it comes to booking business trips. Is ittime to give them a try? Consider these advantages:

  • Your own site: When you contract with Expedia, Orbitz orTravelocity, your company gets a private booking site. This sitelooks and feels just like the well-known consumer sites but isconfigured with details of your company's travel policy, makingcompliance automatic. Setup fees, which run in the $150 range, arefrequently waived.
  • Lower transaction costs: When a business traveler callsa traditional travel agent, he or she is charged a fee for thebooking, which can range from $25 to $50. The big three onlineagencies charge $5 or $6 per online booking. (Agents are alsoavailable 24/7, but if you choose to call one, fees range from $15to $25.)
  • Lower rates: Research shows that when business travelersare able to see all the air fares, hotel or rental car ratesavailable online, they choose less expensive options than when theyare talking to a travel agent on the phone. Savings are usually inthe 20 percent range. (Downside: Not all low-fare carriers, likeJetBlue Airways or Southwest Airlines, list fares on thesesites-they'd prefer you book on their sites instead.)
  • Increased bargaining power: When all your company travelis booked through a single site, it provides you with hard data touse to negotiate special rates from airlines, hotels or car rentalcompanies.
  • More control: You can assign different privileges fordifferent travelers and require "exception reports" whenemployees stray from your travel policy.

For more information, log on to www.expediacorporate.com, www.orbitz.com/business or www.travelocitybusiness.com.

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