Google is continuing to expand its outreach into the travel and hospitality worlds with the latest updates to its Hotel Finder service. According to Lifehacker, Hotel Finder now offers neighborhood overviews and lets users search by hotel specifics (e.g., "three stars Wi-Fi in NYC").
The Hotel Finder update is ideal for travelers visiting an area they don't know well, as it lets them see where the hotels are in relation to the spots they will be visiting. As before, users can also draw their own custom map area to find the perfect hotel and filter the results by price, ratings, amenities, and—new in this version—brand (great if for hotel loyalty rewards). Even better, the ability to add filter terms in the search makes finding a hotel much faster.
These developments, in addition to improvements to Google's airline booking platform, signal a strong push into the industry—and, as Tnooz notes, that push can help small businesses, including independent hotels and restaurants.
Google’s purchase of ITA Software allows the company to compete directly in the booking stream, although this has not yet become a significant business, and remains an aggregation model rather than some sort of direct competition with the OTAs. As the "fulcrum of local discovery," Google is perhaps best poised out of all companies to successful bite off a chunk of the local search and discovery industries.
Review from Zagat, content from Frommer’s, videos from YouTube, reviews from Google+, recommendations from Google+, and paid search all come together to create one monster of a small business ecosystem.
By integrating itself into all stages of the travel lifecycle (dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing), Google can also offset some of lost search revenue due to perceived competition by offering new ways of engaging with customers. And, of course, by using Google+ as another ranking element in SERPs, brands are indirectly incentivized to invest back into the so-called "Googleverse." Companies will then purchase ads on Google+ (or whatever monetization product will be rolled out there). As Google further expands its reach in these markets, companies that have already invested seem more likely to see a higher return.
Are you working with Google or Facebook to improve your bookings and your search results? What have your experiences been? Sound off in the comment section below.