With the release of the smart travel itinerary app Google Trips, Google made arguably its most high-profile foray into the travel sector. Following on from Google Flights, the subsequent optimisation for hotel search, and the mobile-first Google Destinations feature – it is the mighty conglomerate’s first native mobile app aimed unequivocally at the consumer travel market.
Released to much hype and rave reviews from major online media outlets, the app not only syncs with your Gmail account to automatically create trip itineraries, but uses what it finds, along with information of your travel location (naturally), to provide suggestions of nearby landmarks and leisure activities.
Put simply, Google are taking the obvious, and smart, next step into the traveller’s field of vision after becoming a major force in the travel search stage of their trip – the in-destination experience. But what sets Google Trips apart from the many travel inspiration apps already available?
Key features of the app receiving praise include the ability to download trip itineraries, including maps and directions, to view offline (undercutting those pesky international data-roaming fees) and the Day Plans feature, which suggests things to do based on how long you are there.
Useful as these well-baked little features are, they don’t take away from the fact that at its core, Google Trips is just another travel industry mobile app offering that boasts personalisation and machine-learning and a confident claim of becoming your handheld personal tour guide. Well, if you use Gmail as your primary email account that is, otherwise the fundamental automation and personalisation features don’t apply.
But the truth is that Google Trips could well be in a league of its own and that is down to one thing and one thing only – data.
Saying that Google has access to a good amount of data is like saying the Maldives is alright when the sun’s out – it doesn’t quite cut it.
Google is data.
With information on almost every business and landmark in the world, coupled with unbeatable insights regarding search patterns and metrics, it’s undeniable that these guys are gonna get it right with the suggestions some (if not all) of the time.
Conspicuous in its absence is the ability to search and book flights and hotels within the app itself, and speakers for the company are remaining tight-lipped on any plans to monetise the app. The addition of this feature is likely to come down the line, the Google Trips moniker itself allowing for a smooth convergence of all of Google’s travel products, but the company has the luxury of testing the waters first.
So what does this mean for the many OTAs and travel start-ups developing travel mobile apps?
Aside from the glowing press and the unquestionably handy features, when it comes down to it Google Trips is a pretty safe move for the tech powerhouse. Sure, they’ve added nifty functions and algorithms, but truth be told all they have done is built upon a tried-and-tested concept we’ve been developing in the travel industry for some time – with arguably less to lose should the uptake not meet expectations. Not exactly innovative, huh?
So rather than look on and quiver, it’s time for travel brands and start-ups to do what appears to come naturally to the industry.
From TripAdvisor to Airbnb, recent history of the travel industry is bursting with innovations and digital pioneers that paved completely new paths for the sector, and you can bet that we’re not gonna let up now.
Google may be making a play for the hyper-organised traveller, but perhaps it’s the spontaneous back-packer whose book we should take a leaf out of now – travel out of your comfort zone, stray from the guided route, and dare to explore uncharted territory.
The time has come for some good new-fashioned innovation.
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