f you visit Sheraton.com, you will see something completely different from other major hotel websites. Instead of the usual advertisements for exotic locations and special offers crowding the home page, you are immediately struck by the phrase "Welcome to the neighborhood" in the center of your screen, and a U.S. map covered with pop-up photographs and the words "Your story. In your words."

The photographs are all amateur, taken by Sheraton customers with no more travel logging experience than the average person. There are no actors or models masquerading as guests in these snapshots and they are not the views most hoteliers would choose to display. There are no wide-angle, enticing displays of guest rooms, meeting rooms, the lobby, the restaurant or the grounds. There are no seductive panoramas of pristine beaches, perfectly manicured golf courses or local tourist attractions. These photos and the accompanying captions and narratives have been submitted exclusively by Sheraton customers who want nothing more than to tell you about their recent trip and stay at a Sheraton hotel.

Welcome to the world of Travel 2.0, a new approach to Internet commerce that travel providers hope will revolutionize the way you shop for travel. Internet 2.0 is the buzzword for new technology and tactics sweeping the cyber world, and Travel 2.0 is the travel industry's adaptation of this latest craze. Travel 2.0 is all about "empowering" users, encouraging travelers to create content online to be shared with other readers, and, as on Sheraton's website, intertwined with the official content offered by an established travel vendor.

"It's not about technology; It's about the guest, what the guest wants," according to Jeff Mirman, director, Sheraton interactive marketing, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. Mirman believes Sheraton is enabling a human connection through the new website. "It's not just a search for a room," says Mirman. "We're trying to have our users tell a story." Mirman demonstrated the website at a recent conference sponsored by PhoCusWright, an independent travel research firm.

Get the full story at USA TODAY