Local business takes on online giants
Move over, Orbitz. Take note, Travelocity. There’s a new kid in the online travel-planning business, at least for trips to Aspen.After a couple of years of work, Stay Aspen/Snowmass launched its online search and booking engine for air travel last Saturday. It was used to make an airline reservation for the first time by a customer the next day, according to Bill Tomcich, president of the central reservations business.The goal, he said, is to eventually do more business in the Aspen market than the big-name, nationwide online travel-planning websites.Stay Aspen/Snowmass’ Resort Travel branch lets customers seek inbound flights from any city in the United States to the airports in Aspen, Eagle County, Denver or Grand Junction.The firm says on its website that it has contracted bulk rates into those airports so it can offer seats when other travel sites indicate that flights are sold out. It can also offer prices that often beat the competition, Tomcich said.The Aspen Times put the local firm’s search and booking engine to the test against Expedia on Thursday night. A Stay Aspen/Snowmass search for a flight from Los Angeles to Aspen on Saturday, Feb. 26, and back to L.A. on Saturday, March 6, quoted a price of $508.62 for a flight on United with a connection in Denver.Minutes later, Expedia quoted a fare of $785 for the same dates via America West with a connection in Phoenix.To use the firm’s search, start at the http://www.stay aspensnowmass.com website and click on the “planning your vacation” tab and then click the “online booking” link. Enter trip dates and hit the “flights” link.From there, the process is much like a web surfer on sites like Expedia or Orbitz. Customers type in a departure city and specify which local airport they want to land in.Like the national travel-planning websites, the search can produce flights from the cheapest to the most expensive option. But the site won’t automatically compare the price of flights from Los Angeles, for example, into Aspen and Eagle County.A user most take note of airfare into Aspen, then do another search into Eagle County, Denver or Grand Junction.And there’s one catch to using the site to book airfare for a trip to Aspen or Snowmass. The user must book at least two nights of lodging in the local resorts as well. Tomcich said the goal is to eventually add online search and booking capability from Aspen to other destinations.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.