Google recently launched a new mobile travel planner which sees a significant step towards providing users with a comprehensive way to search for, plan and book their travels from their mobile device.
But what will this mean for the future of mobile search in the travel industry and what should businesses in the travel and tourism sector be aware of?
Before we find out, let’s take a look at what Google Destinations looks like and what it can do.
A Preview of Google Destinations
The new travel assistant has been launched with hopes to eliminate the headaches that arise from planning a trip and having too many tabs open at once. ￼
Look familiar? We’ve all been there—hopefully, using an incognito browser window to avoid sneaky flight price increases.
According to Google, people often turn to mobile for answers to their travel queries. But the mobile experience is far from perfect. There are issues with websites not being mobile-friendly, as well as a slow take up with deep-linking in apps.
Google Destinations is a progressive web app which has been designed to help you to go through the entire travel planning process without even leaving their interface, which launches right within the mobile search page.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
What Is Google Destinations Actually Like to Use?
Well, pretty useful on the whole. Give it a try!
To toggle the trip planner, simply search for a term using the word ‘destinations’ alongside a country or continent, such as “Canada destinations” or “Europe Destinations”. You will get two options to begin with, with an option to view more. This essentially removes you from the ordinary search results and immerses you into a full-screen Google Destinations planner experience. ￼
This tool provides many insightful ways for a growing mobile audience to plan their trips. Useful features include:
- Ideas for places to visit in the first place
- Filtering by interests, dates and price
- Shows the best dates to go as well as flight and hotel costs, including an estimated total trip price based on the number of travellers and stay duration
- Provides neat itinerary suggestions for those looking to travel even further when they reach their destination
- Provides ideas for the top sights and attractions
- Gives extra information such as average temperatures, popularity and video content ￼
The ‘plan a trip’ tab gives you even more detailed information, including popular flights and hotels. Clicking through provides even deeper results, including filtering options for flights based on stops, airlines, class and times, with information about transfers and layovers:
The flights part of the experience is currently in beta. In order to book a flight from here you need to first choose your departing and returning flights and click the ad space at the top, which takes you to the airline’s website.
Presently, the information icon states ‘Google may be compensated by some of these providers’. It will be interesting to see how Google uses this premium paid advertising space in the future if Google Destinations is a hit with mobile searchers.
When you view hotels, you’re taken to the Google page for individual hotels, with the option to book. This is again presented as an ad, often for popular hotel booking sites. There is also extra information such as amenities, maps, google reviews and transport. This makes it very important for hotels and accommodation providers to have good Google My Business information and Google reviews.
Interestingly, web results to appear at the end of the individual hotel page within destinations, which would take you back out of the interface.
Disadvantages of Using Google Destinations
Of course there are some imperfections. First of all searching for a destinations term on desktop won’t have the same effect, although you can now get similar information if you head to Google Flights on desktop.
Google has also been adding more destinations to the tool since launch, but if you want to go somewhere less well-known, you may find it is not featured yet.
There could also be an issue with trust. For example, there could be an element of doubt that Google Flights is not giving the best or cheapest options or that it is not offering a wide enough range of accommodation; thus people will do their own research and comparisons on other sites.
Not to mention the huge trend of people going their own way and booking their trips using services like AirBnb, who won’t be able to book through Google Destinations.
Possibly the biggest weakness is that the experience of booking through Google Destinations varies depending on the provider. If you select an itinerary for example, you’d have to click through and book individually with each provider. But Google has already made some improvements based on user feedback, such as adding filtering options like flight duration, and will undoubtedly improve the tool moving forward.
Will It Change Online Travel Planning?
It has to be said that dedicated travellers may feel like they are not getting the full picture, and prefer to use Google Destinations for general insights before reverting to the usual ‘open all of the tabs’ method.
Conversely, those people who want to save time and have all of the information handed to them on a platter may prefer to use this to find and book a trip, without ever doing their own research.
In either scenario, Google Destinations is
probably definitely one to watch for providers in the travel and tourism industry. Whether offering accommodation, attractions or services, appearing in the Google Destinations tool may become of huge benefit to those providers in the near future.
At this stage, no one is certain what Google’s going to do with it, or how the ‘organic’ and paid results are going to work within the tool, so it is something to keep an eye on.
Have you had an experience of booking a trip with Google Destinations? Are you a provider in the travel and tourism industry that has seen the tool have an affect on your visitors? Give us your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter.
— Kym Ellis (@digital_kym) 19 May 2016