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Online Travel — A $146 Billion Market By 2010

According to a report by eMarketer, U.S. customers spent $79 billion on online travel last year. And the research firm predicts that spending in this category will grow at around 17% a year for the next five years, totaling $146 billion by 2010.

One of the most notable recent changes is the explosion of social networking sites, where people can share information and itineraries, post travel blogs, and upload videos of their trips.

The report disclosed that online travel agencies are facing increasing pressure, as consumers who use social networks now offer fellow travelers their own advice and recommendations. And that’s in addition to the pricing pressure from airlines and hotels, which sell directly to consumers from their own web sites.

Travel providers, such as online agencies Expedia and Travelocity, will have to be more creative in their packages the report concluded...and be able to move “from a service model based on mass consumption, to one centered on creating customized packages for groups of travelers with unique interests and needs.”