Yahoo Travel Lets Users Help Each Other Plan Trips

By Eric Auchard

Yahoo Inc. , the world's most popular Internet media network, is looking to up-end the online travel industry by helping its users share planning tips, photos and travel lore with fellow travelers.

On Wednesday, Yahoo said it plans to offer tools that turn Yahoo Travel

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from a reliance on professionally created content into an online travel guide that encourages users to publish and share their itineraries.

"We are creating much more of a platform around which people can participate," James Slavet, general manager of the Yahoo Marketplace business unit, which include the company's travel operation, said in a phone interview.

The site's Trip Planner tool enables users to research, publish and share personalized itineraries, both with friends and family, or, optionally, as public guides for travelers headed to the same destination to use for their own planning.

"Anywhere you travel, there are people who have traveled there before you," Slavet said.

At its core, the Yahoo Travel site acts as a tool to pull together all the loose strands of a travel plan, from potential destinations, to flights, hotels, activities, calendars and maps, all designed to be shared with others if so desired.

The system allows the user to create personalized maps of all the key locations on one's itinerary, for example.

Wrapped around this are options to make it easier for users to share digital travel photos, participate in travel-related message boards, or contribute user reviews and ratings, among other features.

The travel site incorporates user-contributed travel photos, organized by location or other categories, via Flickr the phenomenally popular photo sharing site that Yahoo acquired earlier this year. The site also includes a database of vacation home rentals supplied by their owners.

Yahoo Travel boasts nearly 500,000 hotel or vacation activity options in 40,000 destinations worldwide.

For now, user contributions are focused on the pre-planning of trips.

Eventually, Yahoo hopes to incorporate more features that will help users chronicle their journeys using the Internet, mobile phones and digital cameras to contribute travelogues, on the fly, as it were, Slavet said.

Yahoo Travel could also act as a repository for post-trip photo collections and other remembrances, serving to create a rich vein of user experiences for new travelers to incorporate in their own planning, a sort of next-generation travel guide.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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