The Los Angeles Times launched a new travel section over the weekend that focuses on destinations in and around Southern California.

Travel will emphasize local and regional destinations important to Southern Californians including those throughout the state, Mexico, Hawaii and Las Vegas, as well as offer full-service access to research and trip-planning tools including an online travel booking engine powered exclusively by Expedia.com. Offering both inspiration and execution, Travel's print and online components comprise a powerful whole that is unique among websites.

"Our new travel offerings bring rich multimedia content and robust personal utility to the Southland traveler," said David Hiller, publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times. "Our readers and advertisers want a print section that both inspires and informs and a website that gives our readers the nuts and bolts that will help them execute their dream trips."

With a premium placed on enhanced photography, outdoor and adventure travel, off-the-beaten path destinations and significant new online features including interactive reviews and ratings and highly functional research, Travel is designed to mobilize Southern Californians and appeal to Angelenos with energy and style. latimes.com users can share candid feedback and opinions on hotels, restaurants, and attractions, and a new message board offers a forum to learn and share travel ideas and tips on specific destinations and interest areas. Extending beyond the individual print and online mediums, Travel delivers The Times distinct journalistic perspective, enhanced personal utility and creates a viral, self-sustaining community.

"The Times is dedicated to delivering news, information and tools that exceed the expectations of our readers and users," said Innovation Editor Russ Stanton. "Travel combines the best of print and online editorial with the immediacy of interactive commerce to bring near and far destinations a little closer."

latimes.com visitors can access Expedia(R) travel deals, online booking technology and deep travel content, as well as the widest selection of vacation packages, flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises and in-destination activities, attractions and services. Other features include a daily "Deal Blog" from The Times travel experts, both editorially selected and user- submitted photos and access to the Travel article archive. In addition, "My Trips," allows users to conveniently bookmark, research and build a personalized itinerary while incorporating important planning information such as when to go, what to bring and things to do and a dynamic mapping function can identify key venues and generate directions. A full version of Travel online will be released in late March, which will include upgrades based on initial user feedback.

The Times weekly, enhanced print features will include a Las Vegas column offering the inside scoop on America's entertainment playground and the "Down and Dirty" column which reviews close-to-home campsites. Hotel reviews will open the door on some of the Southland's most talked-about lodgings and a column called "On the Spot" will offer advice on dealing with the dilemmas every traveler encounters.

"Our readers are hungry for ideas on destinations, both close to home and farther a field," said Catharine Hamm, Travel editor. "Whether it's an Italian idyll or a Mexican hideaway, the new Travel section will be there."

Related Link: L.A. Times Travel Section, L.A. Times Daily Travel Deal Watch