Random Thoughts: Google City Tours

Yeah, Google beat you to it.

Yeah, Google beat you to it.

Those of you following @travel2dot0 on Twitter got a head start on our regular Travel 2.0 blog readers yesterday with the short tweet about the new Google Labs product dubbed Google City Tours.

RT @wilhelmus New from Google labs: City Tours – DMO’s and travel industry take note… http://cli.gs/7p0b8q

But, 140 characters is just not enough space to convey our wide ranging thoughts on the new offering…so, it felt like a Random Thought was in order.

Honestly, what else would you expect from Google?  The search giant is taking on another ‘challenge’ in daily life, planning trips simply and quickly.  And while the Labs version does have its limitations (some incorrect data, odd pairings and limited scope), it should be seen as yet another warning shot for CVBs and DMOs, let alone the entire travel industry.

As was mentioned on the PhoCusWright Connect blog, this is a pretty good start.

Almost instantly, every itinerary builder on sites from Des Monies to California seem bulky and complex.  The Google City Tour is so elegant, so simple.  Type in a city name…that’s it!

Let’s take that a step further.  As we have seen this week (Travel Trends – Impact of Destination Marketers, Silent Clickers & Social Media), Google is at the top of the travel planning funnel.  Consumers start searching for travel destinations, tickets and schedules on Google.  And this is just another place to start that search.

Plus, unlike you or I, Google answers to no one.  Okay, maybe shareholders, but the answer in that case is always ‘money.’  Anyway, CVBs and DMOs answer to members or political pressure, OTAs answer to advertisers and parent organizations.  Because we, or the travel industry answer to others, we are limited in the amount, depth and transparency of the information we can distribute.

Google, on the other hand, is not.

They can take all the relevant travel content from a specific location (member or not!) and plug it into the City Tour site…and eventually, sell ads around it.

Let’s be honest, any of us could reproduce the technology to create City Tours site, but very few (read: none) of us could recreate the simplicity and content available in the application.

So where does that put us?  Where to we fit in?

I would argue as content providers, which Google is not.  Someone has to provide the basic content that appears in the City Tours site and that is where CVBs, hotels and restaurants come in…providing individual content, rather than the entire offering.

We have talked about an ‘open source’ approach to content for a long time on the Travel 2.0 blog (Random Thoughts: Because we have always done it that way.) and for the most part, the travel industry is trying to reach that point.

However, with continued innovation such as Google City Tours, we might need to get there sooner rather than later.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.