Travel search engines are set to confront a new threat to their business model following the launch of a new Google feature.
The search engine giant has announced “Destinations on Google,” a new feature which hopes to draw people away from travel search engines. Simply type in the world “destination” or “vacation” after a continent, country or state into Google, and the search engine will bring up options for flight and hotel prices in the form of a collage.
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One-stop travel shop in Google mobile search
Look at prices for different dates, analyze trends over time and tell Google to rule out certain options based on budget, group size or other preferences. Most people use Google to look for all kinds of information, and now the company wants to make sure it is the reference for travel planning too.
Use a variety of filters to narrow your search, including one based on your stated interests. A flexible dates option allows you to search by month in order to compare rates for multiple destinations. If you don’t know when you want to travel, use the “Explore” function to find out the best time to visit your destination.
There is even a slider tool which means you can limit options by cost.
Destinations is the next evolution in ongoing strategy
“We show you highs and lows for the next six months, so you can find the right price tag for you,” says the company. “As you slide left or right, the results instantly update with real-time fares and rates.”
Google noticed a 50% spike in travel-related searches on mobile devices in 2015, but the feature is not just about convenience. It will also offer curated itineraries to 201 cities around the world in order to encourage you to book your ticket.
Bookings will be made on the airline websites themselves after you select your itinerary. Google Destinations will be available in the United States and selected other countries for the time being.
What’s behind the decision?
As it stands more specialized sites like Kayak, Expedia and TripAdvisor are the top choices for people planning a trip. Google wants to change these habits and has found a way to synthesize the data that it has collected on airfare and hotels over recent years.
In 2011 the company introduced Google Flights. This year it allowed advertisers to put more information into listings for hotels, and reserve rooms for guests directly from results. The changes are part of Google’s efforts to modernize its mobile service.
More and more people are using their smartphones as the primary device to access the internet. Google recently announced its earnings report, which showed that websites sales growth is being driven by mobile search.
One potential issue is the fact that people might be wary of paying for such expensive, large ticket items such as travel bookings in a spontaneous way, and via their phones. However Google has had previous success with Street View, which lets you wander around the world on your phone screen, so maybe the two features will work together.
I for one would much prefer to research fantastical road trips on Google Destinations than sit scrolling through my Facebook homefeed as I sit on a bus. It will be interesting to see how many searches actually result in a booking, or if we are more inclined to looking up information on places we probably won’t be able to go.