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Monday, February 12, 2007
Websites of big travel firms, hotels, airlines go multi-lingual
Here is good news for those in different parts of the world who travel internationally. Big travel companies of the United States are moving fast on their way to become multi-lingual.

Large hotel chains and major airlines are launching foreign-language websites to expand their international appeal and to boost e-commerce.

Luxury hotel operator Ritz-Carlton will launch Chinese and Japanese sites in March 2007.

Starwood, which includes Sheraton, plans to add Chinese and Italian sites to four other languages, in 2007.

Marriott is working on Chinese and Spanish sites, adding to its German website.

Hilton recently launched a Spanish site, adding to German and Japanese. It will add Chinese in 2008.

InterContinental hotels, which includes Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, launched Arabic, Portuguese and Korean in the last two years, adding to its eight other languages. Before the company spent anything to promote its Japanese-language site, InterContinental customers had booked $250,000 in stays in its first two weeks.

According to an official of InterContinental, the Atlanta-based hotel chain, "our customers come from everywhere. To serve them, we needed to be able to speak their language."

Meanwhile, airlines have focused mainly on Spanish speakers, both inside and outside the United States.

American Airlines, for example, launched 18 Spanish sites tailored to different countries.

Delta has added more languages since becoming the United State's biggest trans-Atlantic carrier. It recently added French, German, Italian and Portuguese sites and will soon add Japanese, Chinese and Russian.

The move to use multiple languages on the Web promotes one goal shared by all travel companies -- to boost internet sales, which cost less to process than those handled by people. The companies also say that connecting with customers in their native language can generate greater loyalty and brand awareness.

"Many companies are moving in this direction as their businesses becomes more global," said an official of Colin Kinsella of Avenue A Razorfish, a leading online marketing agency that recently translated Singapore Airlines' website into new languages.

However, the process of translating hundreds or thousands of Web pages into different languages is not easy.

Ritz-Carlton, for example, could not translate "It's my pleasure" into Japanese because of sexual innuendo in that language. As a result, the phrase is used only in English on all its foreign language sites, explained an executive of Ritz-Carlton.

Also, customers on foreign-language travel websites still may need to understand a little English. United Airlines' Spanish site and Marriott's sites require customers to complete purchases in English.

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posted by a correspondent @ 9:20 PM    
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