Is Google’s New Hotel Finder a Game Changer?

NMT's picture
Mon, 08/08/2011 - 14:13 -- NMT

Is Google’s New Hotel Finder a Game Changer?

I don’t know if Google’s recently-launched Hotel Finder is actually a game changer, or, as Google itself said, “an experiment in finding the perfect hotel.”

But it’s fun to play with.

Eric Leist, an emerging technologies specialist says that it’s always interesting to see information we scroll through linearly, suddenly presented in a new, visually interesting and user-friendly layout.” 

Google's Hotel Finder does just that: Takes hotel search results typically presented in list form and charts them on a map.

And will probably redefine “best practices” relative to hotel searches.

First, and most compelling, when you put in your desired hotel location, up comes a map (of course) that generally highlights the area of your search. In this case,  Boston.

But the map’s overlay changes shape.

How it works:

Users can “edit” the map and change the configuration of their search vector. They can move the “foot print” west or south; make it into a triangle or elongate it continuing to change the region the user is interested in looking at, relative to hotel choices

In this case I stretched the shape into a near square to include suburbs west of the city, all the time watching the number of available hotels increase or decrease depending on how I shaped the map lines.

The second best part, is the streamlined, simple, uncluttered results.

I put in my dates, and up comes a list of hotels within the region I mapped, coherently arranged.

There’s thumbnail image of the property.

Next column shows the Hotel Class (Star Rating) then User Rating, Price per Night and the last column compares the price to other hotels in the map region.

Reviews and star ratings, says Deanna Yick, a Google spokesperson, come from Google users themselves, and the images come from VMF Leonardo.

So the Holiday Inn Boston/Brookline shows, in red, that this price is 54% more than comparable hotels in the region, “comparable” being a tricky word, of course.

Then there’s the option to add the hotel to “Short List” for further consideration and comparison.

Click the hotel’s image, and a half page of photos comes up, with directions, phone numbers, actual reviews and a “Book Button”

Go back to the map if you want more or fewer choices.

Hotelmarketing.com, a reliable source of hospitality trends and news, points out that hotels can now compete with powerful online travel agents like Expedia, because Google’s product now drives bookings directly to the hotel’s website, bypassing third parties.

In effect, like Google’s +1, Hotel Finder is another step in sidestepping results based exclusively on SEO/Adwords.

Now, travel consumers can type in the city they’re looking it, the dates... and the only information that comes up are hotels relevant to that city and those dates, with comparisons that are clear and easy to grasp.

No extraneous information or ads (yet)

One problem we see is in the Book Button.

Click it, and AdWords-driven booking engines do come up, shaded to indicate they are AdWord-driven: Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, with prices.

But, and this is huge opportunity for hoteliers: A link the hotel’s web site also comes up.

Here’s the chance for the hotel to shine; to offer a robust, rich, useful site with competitive prices and service add-ons than make the hotel’s web site the only place to go to book that hotel.

Search Engine Land wonders if this Google experiment will last, but adds, that for now, it’s certainly likely to cause hotel search engines a lot of worry.

Already Digital Trends believes that both Kayak and Bing suffer some by comparison.

The site says Kayak, which has been around a long time, is more text heavy, not as easy on the eyes and requires more clicking, while Bing is just too crowded.

We'll see soon enough.