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New travel Web sites target niche markets

As travel frustrations mount and development costs come down, it’s easier than ever to target a niche, create a Web site to service it and wait for the clicks to come in.
ImageL goby.com website
Launched last month, Goby is an activity/event/adventure search engine predicated on the three Ws: What (do you want to do), Where (do you want to do it) and When.goby.com

Got an idea for a new travel Web site? You’re not alone.

As travel frustrations mount and development costs come down, it’s easier than ever to target a niche, create a Web site to service it and wait for the clicks (and, hopefully, the cash) to come in.

The following sites, for example, have all launched recently (or expect to soon) with a single mission or target market in mind. None are predicated on being all things to all travelers, but if you’ve got a specific need or interest, they may provide just the information you’re looking for.

And who knows, after poking around them, you may be inspired to come up with one of your own.

FlightCaster
Is there anything more frustrating than a long flight delay? Actually, yes. A long flight delay when your airline’s alert system is still saying your flight is “On Time.” FlightCaster aims to fix that problem by offering predictions on flight status up to six hours before departure.

The service — free on the Web, $1.99 as a mobile app — collects data from multiple sources, runs it through a proprietary algorithm and then returns the probability the flight will be on time or delayed long before the airline fesses up. Depending on the timeframe and your tolerance for risk, you can at least consider alternative plans.

Goby
Launched late last month, Goby is an activity/event/adventure search engine predicated on the three Ws: What (do you want to do), Where (do you want to do it) and When. But instead of returning pages of text-based links à la Google, it aggregates information from hundreds of sources to provide appropriate options complete with maps, photos, directions and tons of descriptive information.

Be careful, though, because online aggregation remains an inexact science. Contrary to Goby’s Nevada map data, Red Rock Canyon is not in downtown Las Vegas — although the BLM office that manages it is.

Kijubi
As in “Could you be ... kayaking ... or rock climbing ... or one of hundreds of other activities on your next vacation?” Billing itself as an “experiential marketplace,” Kijubi lets you research and reserve activities in advance so you don’t waste precious time when you get where you’re going. Individual listings include maps, hours of operation and other pertinent need-to-know info.

For now, the site offers a wealth of opportunities in California, a couple dozen in Florida and, alas, just three in Nevada (all at Madame Tussauds, apparently), but the Kijubi team is currently working on expanding to Hawaii, New York, Colorado and New Mexico.

Jetsetter
If you’re familiar with Gilt.com, the invitation-only Web site that offers flash sales on designer brands, consider clicking over to its new sister site, Jetsetter. Once there, you can peruse select luxury-travel deals that are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis for just two days.

The offerings run the gamut from posh hotels to premium cruises with the savings showing a similar breadth. During a recent search, rooms at New York’s Hotel on Rivington were 30 percent below the hotel’s own best price, while suites on a November sailing on the Seabourn Legend were no cheaper at all.

Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy
Although better known for their luxury trips to exotic locales, the folks at Abercrombie & Kent also have a long history of philanthropy toward the habitats and communities their guests experience. To further that effort, they’ve launched Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, which allows travelers to make tax-deductible donations to any of 50 grassroots projects around the world.

Projects range from rainforest restoration in Australia to employment training in Zambia, and trip participants can often visit project sites in person as part of the company’s escorted journeys. Making that connection, says the company, makes the donation itself all the more valuable.

Traxo
Traxo is a relative oldster among travel startups — it rolled out way back in mid-August — but its double-duty mission offers something unique. Part itinerary organizer, part social network, it automatically detects online travel reservations, consolidates them in one spot and then shares your plans with friends, family and colleagues (based on the privacy settings you’ve designated).

The site touts its Facebook integration and the value of trusted-contact recommendations, but for busy travelers, the best thing about it may be that you’ll never have to say “I can’t believe you were there; so was I!” ever again.

BlackAtlas
Set to launch on October 15, BlackAtlas was developed by American Airlines to provide an online community in which African-American travelers (and others) can explore and share black cultural experiences. It will feature destination information, including photos, videos and inside tips, along with blogs, user reviews and other community-generated content.

The site will be overseen by author, filmmaker and “traveler at large” Nelson George and will be divided into destination- and category-specific sections, such as restaurants, nightlife and culture. Not surprisingly, perhaps, there’ll also be a link to American’s booking engine.

Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com. If you'd like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, .