HOTEL CHAINS RESERVE THEIR ROOMS ON THE WEB

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For weary Internet surfers seeking a rest stop, there's hope: Hotels are taking to cyberspace.

Promus Cos.-operator of Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Embassy Suites and Harrah's properties-last month opened its home page on the World Wide Web. A week later, Hyatt Hotels Corp. said it would take to the Internet via a new service called TravelWeb.

Both chains will offer information ranging from room photos to maps to room service menus. Once technology permits, both will handle electronic reservations, too; for now, booking a room still requires picking up a telephone and dialing an 800-number.

"For us, it is a mailing list of 20 million people," said Bill Rieke, director of business system strategy for Promus. Promus paid about $20,000 to establish its Internet connection, he said.

"We recognize that the Internet and all electronic-type venues like Internet are where people are going to be tomorrow," said Jules Sowder, VP-marketing for Hampton Inn. "More consumers are getting on electronic avenues, and we want to make sure we have a presence."

Hyatt is taking a different route. The chain is the first hotel member of TravelWeb, a new Internet service operated by Hotel Industry Switch Co., a Dallas-based company that links hotel and airline computer reservation systems.

Hyatt is providing information on 16 resorts for TravelWeb, and will add 87 more properties later this year.

"We were encouraged to see 8,000 accesses in the first 10 days we were online," said Steve Yastrow, Hyatt VP-resort marketing. "It proved that the tools available for people to find sites on the World Wide Web are already useful."

TravelWeb plans to add information on Best Western International properties next, said John Davis III, president of the hotel service company.

"Part of the Internet is just being opened up to commercial ventures like this," said Bill Seigel, publisher of Hospitality and Automation, an Atlanta-based industry newsletter. "We will see more."

But Mr. Seigel cautioned that there's no guarantee computer users will want to make hotel reservations over the Internet.

Still, Promus and Hyatt "have the benefit of being the first and only ones on there," Mr. Seigel said. "And Internet brings people all over the world together."

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