Google Trips: a new direction for travel data?

Google already has all of your information. There’s not much you can do about it. If you have an email address and search the internet, they already know all about you.

The good news is that they’re starting to put that information to use for you. The company’s newest offering is called Google Trips, and it is mostly a new front-end for existing information. It pulls data from Google Maps, Flights, and Places, combines them with information from your e-mail, and produces an at-a-glance travel guide. You can even download it for offline use, which will help international travellers save money by reducing overseas data usage.

There are some pretty serious limitations to the app. While you can see restaurants that match your itinerary, you can’t reserve a table at them without calling. The same is true with hotels and flights. The service doesn’t provide “last mile” connections. Rather than being a one-stop shop for planning your trip, Google Trips seems to be marketing itself as a place to store information about your trip once you’ve already made plans.

Google Trips seems to indicate a new direction for the company’s offerings. Previously, their focus had been on increasing the reach of existing apps. Inbox, for instance, integrated your calendar, e-mail, and notes you jot yourself in a single screen. It would categorize messages for you in an effort to keep relevant information together. It wanted to be the place you went for everything in your life.

Trips is a different sort of app. It has a very specialized function. If you’re not planning a trip or currently taking one, it likely won’t see much use. However, if you’re in vacation mode, you’ll likely use it nonstop.

There’s big money in tourism and hospitality, and Google could stand to be see a big part of that. Ads for local points of interest, bars, and hotels could generate a great deal of action in the app, and the narrow targeting of just tourists to one particular city is very attractive to local businesses. The app seems like a great addition to Google’s already robust set of advertisement platforms.

Google’s shifting resources into this lucrative niche. People searching for travel destinations are going to spend money. Vacations represent the third largest common expense behind cars and houses, and Google has made a serious investment in directing that money. In addition to Trips, Google has also redesigned their other travel search interfaces, including a focus on mobile bookings.

Google isn’t alone in the trip planning app world, as their launch comes on the tails of AirBNB’s announcement of their similar app. Google’s presence likely means this particular space is likely to close, as few companies have the technological resources to match Google’s sophistication or the capital to match their staying power. Google again sneaks in ahead of the competition to occupy an emerging market space.

 

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