29 Jul 2011

What Google Hotel Finder Means For DMOs

Destination marketing organizations and CVBs have long thought of themselves as the most knowledgeable guide to a particular tourism area. But that claim of expertise just got a little smaller.

Yesterday, Google launched a novel little experiment called Hotel Finder. With the coverage from most tech sites being simply cut and paste, the Tnooz article being the exception, you might have missed a few subtle hints on Google's potential plan for travel and tourism.
Before we get to that, the basics on Google Hotel Finder: a new experimental search tool specifically designed to help you find that perfect hotel via a new mapping selection tool and comparison shopping.

So, like Kayak, just more aesthetically pleasing.

However, beyond the threat to Kayak and CVB booking engines, there is one major, yet seemingly unnoticed, implication for destinations.

Google knows more about your destination than you do.

Let's look at the first highlight from the Google blog entry: "To help you figure out where the action is, Hotel Finder shines a "tourist spotlight" on the most visited areas of U.S. cities. We select an initial shape for you based on what’s most popular..."

One more time, but just focus on this part: "We select an initial shape for you based on what’s most popular..."

Yeah, Google places that nifty little shape for the user. How? Because they have a wealth of data on the user, and specifically the tourist.

Searches, check-ins, reviews, directions, mobile interactions, etc.

Google knows what the tourist is looking for in, I would venture to guess, every major tourism destination in the world.

That said, I would also assume that most of our tourism peers already knew this. Google has a lot of data, about a lot of things, including tourism. But, start adding together a few more pieces and the picture becomes a bit more interesting:

Lets review. Google buys the people and technology from a travel guide start-up, creates an experiment around city tours, knows how people begin their vacation search and has enough data to draw a box around the tourist hot spots in a location.

Take the basic travel planning / purchase funnel (Absorb - Research - Plan - Explore - Share) and it strikes me that Google is establishing a presence in 4 of the 5 segments.

Research = Search. Plan = Hotel Finder / City Tours. Explore = Mobile / City Tours. Share = Picasa / Google+.

Is the Google plan truly domination of the travel planning process? Probably more coincidence than evil plot.

But considering the increasingly robust offerings from Google, where does that leave the destination in the travel planning / purchase process?

Still a factor, but the influence of destinations just got a little smaller.

This article was written by Troy Thompson and the original can be found HERE

Troy Thompson is a respected consultant, speaker and thought-leader in the tourism industry. Principal and Senior Tourism Consultant at the Travel 2.0 Consulting Group, Troy provides destinations, DMOs and CVBs with answers to difficult digital marketing questions.