The Internet was supposed to make travel simple. But how many hours have you spent sifting through sites, prices, forms and flights trying to book a trip?
Not for the first time, Google says it has a fix.
“Travel planning is complicated,” Richard Holden, the company’s VP for Product Management, Travel, said in a blog post this week. “That’s why today, we’re simplifying the way we help travellers plan trips with Google across devices.”
How? The search giant has announced a major revamp of its travel deck on desktop, bundling a range of trip-planning tools together at google.com/travel.
‘Google Trips’, as the page is titled (not to be confused with the offline mobile app), allows browsers to search for flights, hotels and packages, as well as explore possible destinations, all on a single landing page.
It also sees a tighter integration with Google Search and Google Maps.
At this stage, the company is not jumping ahead with sales of flights and holidays – instead continuing with its metasearch model, where users click through to book rooms and airfares provided by advertisers.
“We want to help you find the information you need, fast,” as Holden says.
So, how does Google Trips feel and function?
One of the first things users will notice is how personalised the process is.
Yesterday, for example, I booked a hotel in Cork. Today, when I open the landing page, it prompts me to review this trip and “continue planning” – drawing information from my use of other tools like Gmail, Search and Maps.
Click through further, and I’m presented with options of things to do in the city based on places I have starred in Google Maps, with travel articles gleaned from around the web, and even with a weather forecast.
“When you go to google.com/travel, you can now make edits directly to your trips timeline, and in a few weeks you’ll be able to manually add new reservations as well,” Holden says.
If you don’t want to see private results, here’s how you can opt out.
The mobile version of the site offers similar options… though not everything is covered. Cruises and car rental are conspicuous by their absence, for example.
Google has been on a travel journey for some time, building acquisitions like ITA software for flights and Zagat for restaurants into potentially all-consuming planning tools.
Given its billions of users, access to personal data and intuitive user experiences, booking giants like Expedia and Priceline may well be worried – though they still reap the bookings rewards… for now.