Travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz already have their hands full with airlines and hoteliers - their "valued partners" - luring consumers away with sites that look more like full-service travel agencies every day. Now, here come Yahoo and AOL, and maybe even Google.

AOL, Yahoo and others have intensified their focus on the travel category in the past year, beefing up destination features, introducing tools and scooping up new users and marketers in the process. This trend has the online travel agencies bracing for the possibility that the portals could one day evolve into full-fledged competitors.

"Yahoo is certainly coming closer to that," said Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Mass. Google, meanwhile, recently began offering airfare searches from its search box.

It does not take a cartographer to notice that the online travel map has shifted significantly. The new measures represent a clear departure from what AOL, Yahoo and many other travel-related editorial sites offered even two years ago when the online advertising market began showing a pulse again after the dot-com crash in 2000.

Now that marketers will pay more to reach consumers reading about Caribbean beaches and playing with travel planning tools, the portals are in much less of a hurry to march readers off to an online travel agency and collect a commission for that click.

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