The buzz today in the travel industry is all about Google’s acquisition of Frommer’s, the travel guide and resource. With this latest acquisition Google’s plans for the travel vertical continue to become clearer. Google has all of their Local/Maps content and data, they acquired ITA for flight data and technology, they acquired Zagat for their review content and now they’ve snatched up Frommer’s destination content. It is surprising to no one that Google has major aspirations to get more involved in the travel vertical and generate revenue from the billions of travelers and transactions. The big outstanding question that nobody knows the answer to, is how are they going to do this? I have an idea.
In June of 2011 Google launched something they call City Pages. These pages are only live in 6 U.S. cities and appear to be quietly sitting and waiting with little activity or promotion. In fact some of the features appear to be broken at this time. Currently the pages preview local business information from Google Local, offers from Google Offers and a few other elements. Here is what one of the pages looks like:
In my opinion these pages are the foundation for where Google is going. These pages are perfect for integration with Zagat reviews, flight information, hotel information and destination content from Frommer’s. I envision these City Pages showing up in search results and being designed as the “one stop shop” for planning travel to a particular destination. I would also envision these pages getting an upgrade and integrated with Google+, the same way all Google products are. One of the other assets Google is getting from Frommer’s is the mobile apps that Frommer’s has built. I could see this type of robust, comprehensive destination guide being used to upgrade the apps that Frommer’s has built.
In essence this will become another Google product and then the question will be, how will Google promote this new product? Google often gets criticized for promoting their own entities too strongly in search results, I see this as another instance where that will happen. We know they will promote these new City Pages in search results, but will they be just another page in the list of results? Or will they highlight them in some special way? My guess is that we could see this City/Destination content show up in Google’s new Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph results have started showing up in recent months for searches where there is a fairly obvious search intent and the results show in the upper right of the search results page. For a search like this, for Portland Oregon, it would not surprise me to eventually see links to this new City/Destination content that Google will be creating.
For the hotel and travel industry this is something we’ll need to keep an eye on and monitor. Over the coming months there could be new advertising options, like the approach Google has taken with Promoted Hotels. For folks like Yelp and TripAdvisor this is another major step towards Google competing with them more directly, something they’ve been experiencing for the past year or two. The unknown and speculating about the evolution of our space is what makes our jobs fun. These are my thoughts on where it is all going, what do you think?