MORE reviews posted as the search continues for Australia’s best travel website, which will be announced at TRAVELtech on September 8 . The hunt has started with the Hitwise Hottest 100, five score of Australia’s most popular websites. Check out the early reviews and have your say. Nominate a site you think should be considered. The best 25 or thirty will be chosen and posted for voting, the results considered by a panel of autonomous judges to determine Website of the Year and the Top Ten Travel Websites. 

#65 Mount Hotham: Good snow resort site that gets marks for effort. This year it has launched a community page where people can download images and video. It’s a start! It has a simple splash page, good use of images, all key information easy to find. Site does what it’s supposed to with some style and innvoation.

 #63 Hotel.com.au: A decent site that does a god job at selling rooms. Home page features dozens of destination links that clearly help with SEO but don’t do much for aesthetics. There are quite a few bells and whistles including a blog that is updated regularly. Product comes through HotelClub. While on site was asked to complete a pop-up survey that left me a little confused about its purpose.  

#?? Clean Cruising: Really good looking site. Blue and white, lots of great search filters, innovative use of maps, easy to navigate. A lot of thought has clearly gone into this site which unfortunately is unable to offer a live booking facility, no doubt a reflection of the lack of IT savvy among cruise lines..

#60 Rydges.com: A busy site dominated by a large central ad, which can be a little distracting although the counter-argument would be that it’s there to sell the latest specials, which it dopes quite well.  Booking functionality adequate although confusing at times as there is no single entry point and product display can vary according to which link is clicked.

#93 Rent-A-Home.com.au: An attractive, inviting site. Simple to use and clearly laid out, features consumer reviews and a decent booking engine. Does what it sets out to do – rent holiday homes. It looks authoritative and provides a rental guarantee with every booking.

#29 Airfares Flights: Great search engine visibility and vies with Webjet for #1 slot in many of the key airfare/airline categories. The business model is link-based and allows consumers to search airfares across most major Australian online travel agencies. Not the slickest site but effective.

#2 Qantas: New site, think it has just been launched, very sharp. Sexy look and feel, innovative yet straight forward navigation: very easy to get around. Airfares are just the start of what it’s selling – everything to do with travel can be booked on the site – yet it doesn’t feel cluttered. All options are clearly presented and there’s smart use of images. It’s a great improvement over the previous incarnation and what you want from one of Australia’s most important websites. www.qantas.com.au

 #19 ExplorOz: Interesting site, simple well laid-out and with lots of depth. Busy member forums with plenty of contributions every day, plus comprehensive classified marketplace. Site perfectly pitched to its audience – people travelling around Oz. Very popular and can see why. www.exploroz.com

 #18 HotelClub: One of Australia’s most popular accommodation sites features a functional design that hasn’t changed for years but it grows on you as ease of use becomes apparent. Good property display that uses full width of page and features links to all the stuff needed to make a decision on where to stay, including user reviews. www.hotelclub.com.au

 #74 My Fun: A theme park aggregator. “The official site website to purchase discounted tickets to all of your favourite theme parks and attractions.” A simple, direct site that does its job very well, which is to sell theme park tickets. www.myfun.com.au

 #86 Hertz: Like most car hire supplier sites, this is basically a booking engine. There’s no embellishment, no pretence, no ambition. There’s not a single picture on the splash page though some illustration through cartoonish car doodles that feature in a couple of promos. Yellow and black dominate. www.hertz.com.au

 #?? Avis: Didn’t make into the Hitwise Hottest 100 but best-looking of the car hire supplier sites. Home page even features a photo of a car speeding down the highway. Revolutionary! Big special offers – focus on rate in large numerals. Four step booking process but no price display when car rental options presented. www.avis.com.au

#64 Travelmate: This site looks very familiar, just like the last time I visited, in fact, which would have been two or three years ago. No photos or drama of any kind on the home page. After starting life as an Aussie drive tourism site from Caltex, it’s now owned by AOT and is basically an accommodation booking engine with a few add-ons. www.travelmate.com.au

 #45 About Australia: A big fat linking site with lots of pages and info – great for SEO – but can be hard to find the good stuff. Uses the Roamfree booking engine plus paid links for accommodation, tours etc. General look and feel – orange the primary colour – screams advertising. All prime positions, including masthead, taken out by ads while Google AdWords runs on most pages. www.about-australia.com

 #26 Australian Explorer: Another big linking site focussing on destination information and high search engine rankings. Not really a lot of difference between it and About Australia. You’ve got to click a lot to get anywhere. Google AdWords is very prominent once again and, while it may drive revenue, doesn’t look so hot. www.australianexplorer.com

 #23 Singapore Airlines: Nice look and feel. Calming colours and design, much less garish that some of the competition. Nice branding through use of Singapore Girl image. But ultimately a limited website that only provides air bookings. For example, unlike other carriers, there are no holidays, hotel or car booking options. Strangely on the navigation bar ‘SIA Holidays’ is listed under ‘Promotions’, which links through to a separate website for Tradewinds Tours. Huh? www.singaporeair.com

 #82 Please Take Me To: This website has lots of great content (Australia’s largest collection of travel photos, videos etc) but is let down by a site design that has no sense of direction. Is it a photo site? Is it a video site? Or just another destination site packed with links? Right now it is option 3. I have a nagging feeling it looked a whole lot better when launched a couple of years ago but has since changed focus. www.pleasetakemeto.com

 More reviews will be posted soon. Add yours below – be nice now!

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