By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

Australian-based accommodation booker HotelClub has emerged as a rare bright light for the struggling Orbitz online business, which is losing money at an increasing rate – US$15m in the first quarter 2008 compared with US$10m for the same period in 2007. However, HotelClub, which also operates the RatesToGo website, increased gross bookings by 31% over the previous year, and did particularly well in in Australia with 55% growth. Japan was also strong.

Orbitz is a stock market play 48% owned by Travelport, the travel conglomerate created by venture capitalists The Blackstone Group. Since listing, Orbitz, which was saddled with an awful lot of debt, has been a failure on just about every level, though it does own a decent business or two, and has even managed to under-perform the initial low expectations. Investors who bought the stock have been hammered – it’s now trading slightly above US$7 after listing for more than US$14 last year. Apart from HotelClub it also owns ebookers and Orbitz.com. Travel Trends: May 12, 2008

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