Here’s Google!!

The US travel industry is facing a terrible year, thanks to credit crunched consumers and a weak US dollar. But Google sees an online opportunity in the struggling industry. The search giant plans to expand its travel offering, which currently seems to be confined to one-off videos and ads from tourism boards. In the future, the site will have marketer-sponsored pages where would-be vacationers can learn tons about a destination and see related user-generated content. Check out this link to a YouTube New Zealand channel for an idea of the kinds of videos destined for such pages. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Surely some of you read the recent article / blog post from Business Week declaring Google’s intentions to jump into the heavily crowded field of travel planning. The story goes on to say that Google is thinking about creating ‘a one-stop shop for travel information‘ as well as citing a recent (and still active) campaign from the New Zealand Office of Tourism…’Nearly 900,000 people have watched a New Zealand tourism board’s video ad since it was uploaded to YouTube last September. That kind of traffic is bound to draw marketers.’

But, before you start waving the white flag to the titan of all things search, let’s take a step back.

First, talk of Google Travel has been around for a while, as evidence by a search for ‘Google Travel’…since at least 2004…bloggers have speculated at length about the amazing integrations possible with Google Talk, Google Video (YouTube), AdSense, etc, etc. So, the news of Google Travel is nothing new.

Secondly, Google already has a seat at the table when it comes to online travel planning. Offerings including search, maps, photos, videos, weather, news, directions, etc. and are already heavily used by, what I would safely assume, a lot of travelers. In fact, bloggers even mocked-up this Google Travel page (not bad) almost 2 years ago. Plus, the team at Google Maps recently posted an entry on using Google Maps to plan a vacation. As you can see, travel is already a large part of Google’s offerings and our usage of the site.

And keep in mind, Google, unlike Yahoo or MSN, is not (really) in the content creation business. Last time I checked, they don’t have sports columnists or writers…they pull, collect, aggregate and display content from around the web in an easy to use format.

Which is another reason why you need to break down the wall around your website and start creating and offering content on sites such as TripAdvisor, WikiTravel, Flickr, YouTube, etc, etc, etc. Google, like a lot of sites, travel or not, pull content from these types of sites.

Now, as far as YouTube and that New Zealand spot. New Zealand has done a good job creating and promoting their Pure New Zealand channel on YouTube. The spots are great and the traffic is impressive. But, this was certainly not pulled together on a shoestring budget…so forget those thoughts of your homemade travel commercial receiving millions of visits.

At a conference last year, a rep from YouTube highlighted this campaign and proceeded to tell the group that the cost was somewhere in the neighborhood of $250k. And that $250k will get you prominent placement on the YouTube homepage, which is where the majority of those 900,000 views have come from. As our friends at Travolution pointed out in a recent post, the next closest video New Zealand video has only 26,016 views (similar to other ‘viral’ travel promo videos). A good result, but no where near 900,000.

Not to mention that Weta Digital, the company behind the impressive effects in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and a New Zealand company) just happened to help out with some of the effects on that popular video. Not bad.

So, the next time you are at a conference and hear someone talking about how Google is going to take over the travel space, you can tell them it has already happened…for a price.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.