Destinations On Google Aims To Simplify Travel Planning — Does It Succeed?

Apparently even Google wants to get in on the travel market. Last month, the search engine giant launched its destinations feature, which purports to make travel planning easier. In its blog, Google said the feature makes it possible to find hotel and flight prices without a number of tabs open on your browser. Currently only available on mobile phones, it is activated by simply adding the word “destination” to any city, state or country typed into the search field.

As Tech Crunch reported, the feature sends users to airline websites to complete ticket purchases. But before getting there, users have the option to browse suggested itineraries in each location. Users can get a list of things to do and the time it takes to get from point A to point B, all based on location data.

Destinations also works when users have a specific activity in mind, like “Spain surfing.” Google’s development of the new feature was reportedly prompted by the spike in travel-related searches on mobile, up 50 percent last year on Google.com.

Gizmodo said the feature is not without its drawbacks. There is currently no option for accommodation options like AirBnB.

Travel + Leisure made an interesting point in its review of Google destinations, noting that the information is based on search volume, so users get the “most obvious” activities in each city. The magazine also had trouble with the budget option, which defaulted to a one-week trip, making it difficult to look for weekend getaways which might be the impetus of a spontaneous travel search on a mobile phone to begin with. At the end of the day, it won’t satisfy all the needs of a frequent and knowledgeable traveler.

“The ability to scan destinations based on real-time pricing data, input your budget parameters, and sort by interests offers an unparalleled source for realistic and actionable trip ideas. And at another juncture in your process, you may end up booking your flights and rooms on Google’s Flight and Hotel search tools. They really are quite powerful and successful on their own. But if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to take steps in between—whether that means comparison shopping, itinerary mapping, or simply digging deeper than Google’s top search results.”

Travel Pulse, speaking to the people who might be most worried about Google destinations — travel agents — found they aren’t as concerned about the new Google function as one might think. Travel agents have the local knowledge and customer service that Google can’t provide in its current format. One agent said that online booking services that already exist cater to an entirely different market than agents. Agents provide advice, customer service and human interaction. They also have a loyal roster of clients.

Given the vast amount of online traffic already dedicated to trip booking, it’s clear that travel agents have already been down this road before — and have survived the challenge from the competition. And at the moment, it’s not possible to actually book a vacation right inside the Google platform.

Tech Crunch doubted whether the click of a Google destinations result would lead to a high-ticket purchase, at least not for most mobile users. But the site concluded the feature is, at a minimum, a great time waster while dreaming about your next trip.

[Image by Nitot/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0]