The Internet has now become a cornerstone of the travel industry in Europe and the latest online tools, tips and trends will be on show at this year's World Travel Market (WTM).

WTM at London ExCeL from 12-15 November 2007, will showcase the most recent advances in the digital world, in which online travel is seeing explosive growth of 20% with the sector predicted to be worth over ?33 billion in the European Union by 2011, according to Euromonitor International.

?The Travel Technology and Travel Online section of World Travel Market was the first area to sell out?, said Fiona Jeffery, Managing Director, World Travel Market, ?a sure reflection of the enormous growth in the sector.?

WTM?s seminar programmes will be revealing the most recent online travel developments to pinpoint how to use technology to maximize business advantage.

?The message at WTM is clear that all operators can get similar trade results if they use technology correctly and spend wisely?, added Jeffery.?.

A sobering recent prediction by research analyst group, Gartner, is that enterprises will waste more than ?50 billion on the wrong networking technologies and services over the next five years, highlighting the need to get the best advice at WTM this November.

?No one can deny how important the Internet has become as a channel. In today?s fast-moving world people need answers about what will be the next must-have feature for travel sites so they don?t get left behind, and WTM can provide these.

?With a thriving Technology and Online Travel sector and full to bursting technology seminar programme, WTM can ensure that businesses will find what they need to succeed whether it be online, in the real world or in the virtual world.?

Technology and Online Travel exhibitors at WTM

Companies exhibiting at World Travel Market?s Travel Technology and Online Area includes : Bewotec, Biznet Solutions, boo.com, CodeGen Ltd, Comtec, Conrad Advertising, E-Clear (UK) PLC, FastBooking, Final Quadrant Solutions Ltd, GlobeTrack, G-rez, Hexaware Technologies Ltd, Hostelsclub.com, Intracom IT Services, JohnHenry.net, Nozio - Internet for tourism (Netplan), Open Destinations, Open Hospitality, RedSkyIT, Rezgateway, SynXis, T I Infotech Pvt Ltd, TouristWay Software Engineering GmbH, Tourplan, TravelCLICK Inc, TravelRes and WebSource Europe Ltd.

Here are some of the latest trends at WTM that indicate how things are shaping up this year:

- Online booking has really taken off

- Environment concerns are making their mark

- Web 2.0 social networking sites are flourishing

- Virtual travel is hot

- Video blogging is storming ahead

- Self-booking tools are saving 25% in costs

- Affiliate site sales are booming in billions

- After Web 2.0, it?s now Travel 3.0

- Cellphones are being promised on planes, and

- Travel pods are being installed in shopping malls.

Online booking goes stratospheric

In the UK alone, 17 million are using the Internet to book all or part of main holidays online. Travel sites saw traffic double in January this year, when Expedia and Thompson experienced 60% rise in traffic showing how important online booking has become.

EyeforTravel research (2007) also found impressive growth in online booking in Central and Eastern Europe. The period 2005/6 saw a 200% increase in online booking growth in the Czech Republic with figures of up to 50% in Slovenia and Slovakia.

With over 200 million searches carried out monthly on the Internet that are specifically travel-related, travel domain names have had major success too in becoming an extension to advertising and marketing plans

Major trends ? environment & Web 2.0

Two newer trends stand out. One is the emphasis on the environment borne out by initiatives such as lastminute.com?s initiative to extend carbon offsetting and WTM?s own World Responsible Tourism Day.

The second is Web 2.0, which emphasises the Internet's role in the travel industry.

As consumers have begun to feel overloaded with information and increasingly turned off by advertising and marketing, the rise of Consumer to Consumer (C2C) marketing through the use of Web 2.0 has been unstoppable.

Today many consumers conduct their holiday research more from social networking websites, where members can post local information about what to visit and avoid and hook up with other fellow members and plan future trips.

Major brands in social networking have seen their reviews rise to an unbelievable 10 million in 12 months.

Travel and tourism companies are seeing the importance of Web 2.0, as user-generated content, such as comments by travellers on the quality of hotel accommodation, and videos of the very rooms that they were staying in, now set the pace for C2C marketing. Some hotels even post a link to an unofficial website, that has unofficial reviews of its properties via a link to their official website.

Virtual travel

The big news this year though, is virtual travel. Virtual versions of hotels and destinations feature on the fabled ?Second Life? where customers can go to view and post feedback on a blog on travel destinations and hotels. Through Second Life, companies are able to attract a different type of consumer to visit alongside virtual potential clients, to check out its travel offers, and interact with other customers who are on the same site to find out more.

Blogging is believing

The travel blogging industry is rapidly expanding with many new competitors entering the market. Online video sharing of information is moving into video blogging among travelers in a big way. It provides the means for travelers who are merely interested in filming and posting video logs to share their travels rather than writing a formal travel blog.

Adventure travel specialists like Explore are launching blog and podcast facilities for its customers offering an insider perspective on what a tour is like, using audio and video clips, interviews, images and written comments to help sell them.

Avis Rent-A-Car has joined the blogosphere with its blog site www.wetryharder.co.uk, offering its consumers advanced ways of sharing information and asking questions.

Self-booking

Self-booking tools are helping companies save an average of 25.6% in travel management company fees, according to new global research by the Business Travel Research Centre at Cranfield University. The survey of 400 companies, commissioned by Amadeus, found those using self-booking technology were saving, on average, a further 9.1% on airline ticket spend.

Adoption levels within consulting services and logistics companies reached a high of 67% and 65% respectively. Self-booking tools which give users easy access to a variety of options, including fares from low cost carriers, are also more successful.

Companies with a lower travel spend of under $2.5 million per year have been the most successful at driving travel bookings via self booking tools, and highest adoption level is seen in the first year of implementation.

Affiliate sites success

A staggering ?2 billion of UK online sales was generated through affiliates in 2006. Working with affiliate web sites can increase your online sales and reduce your costs. It seems that the idea of paying only for web traffic that buys is really taking off. Once again it seems that the travel vertical is driving this new online distribution channel. Travel companies such as the Dutch holiday cottage operation Euro-Relais are now using affiliates for 50% of their online sales.

From Web 2.0 to Travel 3.0

After Web 2.0 the next potential killer category in the online travel space is being hailed as Travel 3.0, combining Web 2.0 with dynamic packaging. Travel buyers, inventory suppliers and collaborators will each play a role.

A significant development in C2C marketing, using both word of mouth and word of mouse, Travel 3.0 will see more commercialisation. This will use Web 2.0 principles to directly encourage sales, based on far broader collaboration between individual web sites and their contributors, and underpinned by sophisticated dynamic packaging. Travel 3.0 sites will harness the proven capability of dynamic packaging to enrich buyer choice and so build sales, value and margin.

They will be able to create and improve itinerary options, posting suggestions that can actually be booked. Travel buyers will have access to these pre-defined itineraries (created, posted and ranked by individual community users), as well as copious destination and component content and detail.

Help on the move

With cell phone use being promised on planes, BlackBerrys & text messaging should be able to be accommodated in the near future. Today?s airplanes have shielding or protection built-in so that the small bit of interference cited as an obstacle before is virtually eliminated so it becomes no longer an issue. Regulations are now catching up with the technology and Airbus has won approval in Europe to install an on-board system for cell phones.

The Internet is everywhere and now it can enable customers to be in contact whenever and wherever they want, even when shopping. This has recently led to major brands like Thompson planning to install travel pods in shopping centres.

Amadeus has launched a new version of Amadeus e-Travel Management (v10.1), enabling corporate travelers and travel managers to improve real-time communication - using handheld wireless devices while on the move.