Ideas are traveling, too, on the Web

November 13, 2005|By BRUCE MOHL | BRUCE MOHL,BOSTON GLOBE

To help spawn trip ideas, many travel Web sites are starting to offer detailed information on where their customers are going and what they are doing.

The information is hardly exhaustive, since it's based on what one company's customers are saying, and even those customers aren't necessarily representative of society in general. But the companies pulling the data together say consumers often get their travel ideas from what others are doing.

For example, the travel search engine Kayak.com has a new feature called Buzz, which provides a listing of the best fares to the 25 most-searched destinations from any airport.

From Logan International Airport last week, for example, the most-searched destinations were almost all in warm-weather climates. No. 1 was Las Vegas, but the top 10 included five cities in Florida along with San Juan, Los Angeles and Mexico City.

Gambling must be big everywhere, because Las Vegas was also the most-searched destination from Orlando International Airport and was among the top 10 destinations for the half-dozen departure cities that were randomly checked.

TripAdvisor.com is constantly taking the pulse of its customers to look for trends.

"Think about it," said Christine Petersen, senior vice president of marketing for TripAdvisor. "If you're out at a dinner party, travel is one of the first topics that comes up. People like to share experiences and learn from others."

The company recently took this notion to a whole new level, releasing a survey of 3,000 customers that yielded information on everything from where they want to go to what they take with them when they do go.

Petersen said one of the more interesting findings was that travelers, particularly American travelers, are becoming more "germaphobic." She said slightly more than 20 percent of those surveyed reported that they take either their own linens, pillow, shower shoes or disinfectant when they travel.

Asked where they would go if money were no object, Petersen said the overwhelming number of respondents selected Australia, Italy and Hawaii.

The most popular vacation activities of those surveyed were sightseeing, shopping and visiting a luxury spa - with men selecting the latter almost as often as women.

The three most popular airlines of those surveyed were British Airways, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. The least favorite was Delta Air Lines, which is currently operating under bankruptcy protection. Petersen said 40 percent of those displeased with Delta were participating in the Delta SkyMiles program.

Bruce Mohl writes for the Boston Globe.

Airline-water checkup

Is airline water safe to drink?

Routine testing of airplane water is required for 24 domestic airlines that signed agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in mid-October. The other U.S. carriers are expected to sign agreements by the end of this month, says Laurie Dubriel, an EPA attorney.

Drinking water now must be tested every 12 months, says Katherine Andrus, assistant general counsel for the Air Transport Association, an industry trade group representing major U.S. airlines.

"We have always disinfected the water systems," she says of member carriers. "What this new regulation means is we will be collecting samples of water, which we believe will demonstrate there is no problem with drinking water on aircraft," she said.

The new regulations follow a 2004 EPA investigation in which the agency found that 15 percent of the 327 aircraft samples were positive for total coliform bacteria, which, in itself, is not a health risk but indicates that other organisms capable of causing disease may be present.

Under the new agreement, "If they have positive coliform, they have to either turn off the water service or provide notification if they are still going to use that water," Dubriel says. That means passengers will see a placard by water sources or receive a card when they are served water notifying them of bacteria.

For more information, visit the EPA Web site at epa.gov/airlinewater.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

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