Google makes its play to become everyone’s in-pocket destination app

The battle between the online giants to become the personal in-pocket trip concierge of choice for travellers has been joined in earnest by the biggest of them all.

Google has launched what it describes as its first pure travel app [pedants will point out ITA software did release a flights app ahead of its purchase by Google] called Google Trips.

It comes after the recent roll-out last year of Destinations, a mobile web discovery feature, further underlining Google’s determination to become synonymous with travel inspiration and planning.

The Trips app provides details about the world’s top 200 cities drawn from Google’s curated content teams following the previous acquisitions of Frommers and Zagat.

This has been married up with third party online information sources and web resources like maps, geo-location and search data to create a personalised intelligent trip planning and recommendation service.

Google Trips – key features:

  • Automated trip building – the app takes all relevant information from Gmail to create trips without the user having to do anything. Past trips are archived.

  • Real-time information – the app will notify the user if their flight is delayed and other vital information they need.

  • Available offline – a push notification asks users if they want to download their trip ahead of travel. This includes map information related to the location of their hotel.

Richard Holden, Google vice-president product management, who oversees the search giant’s travel team, said the intention was to build an app to help users make the most of their destination.

“We are looking at this as a personal travel guide in your pocket. We think the functionality it compelling.

“In travel we very much look at the full lifecycle, more than just the dreaming and buying phase, but also trying to help with the latter stages.

“We are looking to build enough assets to make the journey seamless across all devices and for people to recognise Google as a destination in itself.

“Part of our goal is people come to us for comprehensivity. We want people to find the information they are looking for.”

There are a number of coloured tiles in the app offering the following services:

Day plans – a trip recommendation engine that is relevant to a user’s location. Navigational and transport information is included as well as data about the average length of time people spend at a particular attraction. Day Plans automatically suggests the most optimised itinerary based on popularity and available data on the user but bespoke trips can also be built in the app.

Things to do – points of interest local to the user, or close to where the user intends to stay or visit are listed with filters related to special interests (eg gothic churches) and traveller type (eg kid friendly). It also makes suggestions based on the current weather.

For you – a personalised and intelligent recommendation feature that makes use of any available data on the user like search history, and previously visited placed to pick out pointe of interest.

Food and drink – a repository of information about the local cuisine and where to eat and drink.

Getting around – a need to know section offering information about local health care, how to claim tax refunds on shopping etc

Holden said the Trips app had been built “in the Google way” as a fully organic product with no commercial aspect to it, initially.

However, the reach of Google being as it is this will not remain the case for long and once the app has achieved widespread adoption commercial partners will be invited to get involved.

“We are viewing this as an experiment. We will see how it goes in the app stores,” said Holden.

“We are talking to destination marketing organisations and we have more partners this might interest, but right now we just want to build a great product people love.”

Holden said he believes three things makes Google Trips compelling compared to rival in-destination apps including integration with Gmail which automatically builds trips through reservation emails.

He said it will also use geo-location and past search data to personalise suggested trips and recommendations, and it is available offline.

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