In 2005, for the first time, online booking became the single most used method for making travel reservations, said Cathy Keefe, spokeswoman for Travel Industry Association of America.

The industry trade group compiled information from several national surveys to find out how people decided where and when to travel and how to book those arrangements. Among the report’s findings is the burgeoning use of the Internet, Keefe said.

“Ten years ago the Internet was a trend,” Keefe said. “It’s no longer a trend, it’s reality.”

Travelers have been researching and reserving trip arrangements online for more than a decade, she said, but the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks supercharged the custom. During the nationwide travel slowdown that followed, hotels dumped empty rooms on discount travel sites, and savvy travelers rushed to book the bargain vacations, said Robert Brinton, executive director of the Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“It made every consumer a travel agent,” he said.

As consumers flocked to online travel sites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz, the airlines, hotel chains and visitors bureaus saw the potential in making their own sites the preferred choice of Web browsers, he said.

Now many airlines and hotel companies promise the best possible rates for online purchasers. It’s no wonder. It’s cheaper than having a call center full of reservation clerks.

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