Travel just a click away

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For many of us, the idea of sitting down with a travel agent to discuss accommodation options, flights and car rental, is a notion placed firmly in the same category as ducktail haircuts and Knight Rider. That said, some travel websites are, of course, easier to use and more comprehensive than others. Here, Business Traveller highlights some sites offering more clout for your click.

Before we start, it’s worth noting that many sites cater specifically for international markets, while others provide tools that are available only to Travel Management Companies (TMCs), which in turn provide access to clients through their own Intranets.

btinfo.co.za

Business Traveller’s own guide to travel throughout the continent, this brand-new site soon to be launched, will provide a thorough and useful directory of hotels, airlines and rentals throughout the region. Tailored to meet the specific needs of the business tourism market, it will also provide profiles of selected accommodation establishments, positioning it as the ultimate tool for African business travellers.

Travelocity.com

Although this site is predominantly aimed at American travellers, it has a number of separate country sites (however, a local South African site isn’t available). That said, if you’re looking for flights from the United Kingdom, Argentina or even India, you’ll be able to access them here – and even create a personal profile. Key features include a section on great deals and last-minute specials, as well as list of attractions and activities.

Expedia.com

Again, this site targets a primarily international audience – but it does have a number of local sites. It also has a dedicated section for business travel, which helps you cut through the clutter of info aimed at leisure tourists. It provides practical tips on, for instance, making the most of rewards and eco-friendly travel. Plus, look out for the handy ‘Expedia Exclusives’, such as Trrend Trackers, which help you identify the best time to travel to your destination, as well as a guide to top-rated hotels.

Travelinfo.co.za

Used by local TMCs, this site provides a directory of suppliers, from car hire to tour operators, airlines and hotels, and highlights special offers and promotions from these suppliers. Tourvest’s Agie Adams says that TMCs also rely on the site’s City Alerts for news of popular destinations – a useful heads-up about which cities are gaining ground as The Next Big Thing – as well as visa a passport information to these destinations. Travel industry news and updates complete the offering.

Seekers.co.za

This site comes recommended by Adams, as it presents thousands of pre-packaged travel deals. What’s more, you can prepare for your trip to these spots by booking flights and car hire online. Seekers’ FaceBook fan page offers expert tips and advice, while the site’s Twitter link makes sure you know about last-minute deals and latest releases before the rest of the market.

Travel.co.za

South Africa’s largest database of travel packages, the site is also a one-stop shop for booking flights, accommodation and car hire. It’s also, according to Adams, the only South African website to offer packages from all tour operators in the country, which means that you have a great base for making comparisons. “The site also offers a platform for suppliers to compete for the customer, by adding value or lowering prices,” he reveals – kind of like a travel auction. Like Seekers, Travel.co.za has FaceBook and Twitter links, offering promotions and competitions as well as the latest deals, and it’s soon to add an SME self-booking tool which will enable small companies to book corporate travel and manage traveller profiles online by providing real-time reports and updates.

Travel.iafrica.com

Since Iafrica is one of the country’s leading news and entertainment portals, it makes sense that its travel offering would be impressive. While it allows you to do all the necessaries online – booking flights and the like – it boasts some other very handy features, and all of them locally relevant. So, while you can check out weather forecasts in major South African centres (ideal for business travellers who aren’t going too far afield), you can also follow the world’s major currencies. You’ll also find some interesting travel-related articles if you have the time to read up on trends and destinations in your area (the ‘Departure Lounge’ section is crammed with great travel writing).

Yahoo! Travel (travel.yahoo.com)

Here, you’ll find a host of Travel Guides, complete with maps, photos and user reviews (useful if you want the insider experience on that hotel you’re considering). A noteworthy feature is the ‘My Travel’ section, which allows you to build a personal profile. You can bank your travel history (a great way of keeping to hand the names of hotels or other service providers that have impressed you in the past), while the trip planner creates a databank of hotels, restaurants and activities. You can even pull information off other websites, including maps and driving directions, and synchronising travel itineraries becomes a cinch because you can share this info with others.

BusinessTravel.about.com

This site is less about logistics and reservations than it is an article archive – which actually makes it an extremely valuable resource when it comes to preparing for your trip. Typical issues covered include guides on how to pack for comfort and convenience; safety tips for women travelling alone; how to save money on services like car rental; must-have travel gadgets and how to avoid jetlag. True, these commentaries probably hold more interest for those who are new to the travel circuit than seasoned business tourists, but you may still pick up some usable bytes from the community forums and blogs.

Tripadvisor.com/BusinessCenter

The draw card here is that this website is developed entirely with business travellers in mind, making it a great resource for essential info. In addition to trip ideas, you’ll find forums and reviews, the major advantage being that all featured establishments – whether hotels or restaurants – have been selected with an eye to the needs of corporates. Another nice-to-have is a feature allowing you to map your meeting location, as well as the services on offer in close proximity.

Bradmans.com

Let’s clarify this from the outset: this website doesn’t win any prizes for comprehensiveness, and although its design is certainly eye-catching, there are others that are far easier to use. What is unique, though, is that certain city features provide guides to doing business in the city (with tips about local press, business hours and the like) as well as handy phrases, cultural do’s and don’ts, and insider information from local residents. This isn’t likely to be your first stop for information about your chosen location, but if you’re a first-timer and you’re seeking to pad out what you already know about your destination, you may pick up some practical ideas.

Onebag.com

Again, this isn’t a site you’ll visit if you’re looking for hotel and restaurant guides, but it makes for informative reading on a subject frequently considered the bane of the traveller’s existence: travelling light. Your relationship with small suitcases will be vastly improved after reading this.

Businesstravelogue.com

Another repository of articles that will leave you well equipped to handle any frequent flyer issue, such as overcoming motion sickness.

Tourism Authority websites

Don’t underestimate the value of local tourism websites – once you’ve dealt with all the necessaries (like booking your flight), these should be your first port of call for information about what to see and where to go in your destination, as well as the essentials such as where to find a hospital or what kind of power supply is available.

You’d be surprised at the myriad different facets of travelling you’ve never even considered – but which are showcased here.

Scan the 50 websites listed here, even if only for interest’s sake – although chances are you’ll pick up some tips that may well make a difference to the way you travel.