PIONEERING interactive TV service ABC Traveltime is accessed via a standard-looking remote control, which has a big roundbutton that allows you to navigate up, down, right and left.

In the centre of it is an OK button which allows you to select whatever option you have highlighted on the screen.

Users are led, in fairly logical sequence, through a series of options – destination, accommodation, airport, when you want to travel, how long for and how many passengers are in your group.

Colour pictures of resorts and hotels flash up where appropriate, and there are plans to introduce 30-second video clips eventually.

Product from 10 tour operators including Airtours, Cosmos, Virgin and Kuoni is featured.

The company claims it is in talks to sign up Thomson and First Choice too.

When customers have chosen their holiday, they still have to use the telephone to conclude their bookings.

These will be handled by Page and Moy’s call centre, which has a staff of 350.

Full on-line booking will be introduced when a late-availability section is added later this year.

The service is pretty simple to understand and navigate, particularly if you are familiar with the Internet. It is also relatively fast, although it did have a tendency to ‘freeze up’ when the OK button was pressed a bit too enthusiastically.

ABC Traveltime

Tour operators featured: Airtours, Cosmos, Kuoni, Cadogan Holidays, Hayes and Jarvis, Manos Holidays, Panorama, Virgin, Unijet and GoldenJoy.

Number of hotels featured: 3,000.

Number of subscribers: 50,000, expect to rise to 140,000 by March 2000.

Regions: at present the service is only available in Manchester. Regions earmarked for the future are Cheshire, Surrey, Sussex, Wirral, Stoke, Derby, central London and Bromley.