If you travel as part of a group, you may be what the hotel industry has dubbed a SMERF. That's an acronym for folks who travel en masse for sports or social, military, educational, religious or fraternal reasons.

"It's an industry term for the leisure group market," said Kurt Weinsheimer, vice president of hotels for online travel agency Orbitz.

SMERFs represent a $36-billion market in the U.S., Weinsheimer said, and include people who travel with soccer teams, school and veterans groups, family and friend reunions or weddings.

These trips are often organized by a nonprofessional planner, such as a teacher, a bride's mother or a soccer parent, who must coordinate trip reservations for several, sometimes far-flung, individuals.

Until recently, group travelers who turned to the Internet to help them find the best deals encountered roadblocks.

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