Google is making what seems to be a big land grab in the travel space with the launch of it's travel planning feature 'Destinations' and 'Trips' travel app.
But it's no surprise that the big G is is focusing on mobile travel planning, booking and management. Google's own research shows that 87% of 'digital moments' in the travel path to purchase happen on a mobile, including 75% of the 34 travel searches which make up the customer journey.
And the mouthwatering pot of gold at the end of that phone is the $389Bn in projected mobile travel revenues in 2016.
As the biggest data aggregator in history, Google is well placed to disrupt and potentially become the OTA to rule them all!
Despite these grand ambitions Google is also a champion of mobile user experience and as a travel buyer I'm pretty blown away by their new suite of features. And, to be honest I don't care where I book as long as I get to my dream holiday in as few clicks as possible.
Google Destinations: Bringing Flights & Hotels Under One Roof
If you now search for a continent, country or location on a mobile phone and include 'destination' or 'vacation' you are now provided with a choice of travel options.
For instance if you type in 'Algarve vacation' you will be given the most popular holiday spots in the region and can filter by dates and price range.
Google will even provide advice on when is the cheapest time to book (watch out Kayak) by returning real time prices from airlines like Ryan Air and hotel booking sites like Expedia.
So by aggregating the aggregators, Google is now acting as the ultimate OTA, taking their slice of the action by charging for adverts and conversions (but they may not stop there in future!).
What makes this work is the seamless integration with Google maps, allowing users to easily plan, check out reviews and itineraries without having to go to each individual hotel or booking site (#hallelujah).
Google Trips Mobile App:
Once you've booked your holiday and got your passport in hand Google's new trip management app will connect with your Gmail, showing all your travel bookings (flights/hotels etc.) and all of your previous holidays around the world.
The app works offline and gives really useful information about how to get to your hotel from the airport, which taxis or transport links to take and how much it will cost, so no more getting ripped off and no more outrageous data roaming charges.
Once in full holiday mode the integration with Google maps allows you to really explore a city, find hidden gems and create custom or recommended itineraries to make the most of your time.
These two updates in their own right send a strong signal to the industry that Google is serious about travel but won't compromise on user experience.
So although this is potentially a good news for the user it does remove margin hit hotels one step further away from the end buyer and finally gives OTAs some of the treatment they've been dishing out for years.
Yet this is positive news for truly great attractions, restaurants and venues at these destinations because Google will genuinely be featuring the best each destination has to offer through it's rich Google maps user data. So, if you are trying to capture more tourist foot fall than I'd suggest you start focusing on your maps and local search marketing strategies to get noticed and recommended by Google.
How this will play out in the long run we will have to see but if engagement is good and revenues are up than expect to see Google nosing into more and more of the travel market in years to come.
In addition to the interests, dates and price filters, Destinations includes a “Plan a trip” feature to compare hotel and flight costs. “We show you highs and lows for the next six months, so you can find the right price tag for you,” says Google. “As you slide left or right, the results instantly update with real-time fares and rates.” The “Plan a trip” feature also lets users customize their results based on flight and hotel preferences.