Google’s in the news these days for their plans to enter the travel business through the acquisition of ITA Software. Apparently, quite a few travel companies are freaked out by this, so are fighting the acquisition.
One thing Google is very good at is providing instant access to information from large data sets, including the web. While the travel industry is large, it’s not as big as the entire web, so there’s a chance that Google could do a pretty solid job providing faster access to travel data as well.
Short of that, Google already is in this business in a few different ways. For example, if you search for terms like “MSP to LAX” Google realizes that you’re searching by airport codes and gives you shortcuts to run that search on popular travel sites. Going one step further by putting prices or the page would be convenient.
The travel feature Google provides that I find most valuable today is their Hotel results on Google Maps. While travel sites provide search results based on a city, near an airport, or in certain neighborhoods of large cities, Google takes things further by allowing you to search for hotels based on a landmark of your choice. For example, I could search for “Muddy Pig, St Paul” to center the map on where I am now (or let Google detect where I am). Then, if I clear the search box and type in “Hotel” Google will show me hotels near that location, with prices, and where I can book it at the price they show:
This is a superior experience to what I see on travel industry sites today. It gets me closer to what I’m looking for faster.