Google will be rolling out a beta version of a new travel assistant app this week to select members of its Local Guides program, reports Skift.
Google’s Local Guides program launched early last year and lets members contribute to Google Maps with reviews, photos, and the ability to add destinations. The program is open to anyone with a Google email address that wants to join, and these members can rack up points the more they post. However, little is currently known about the stand-alone travel assistant app and what feedback Google wants from its Local Guides.
We expect that Google is preparing to launch a stand-alone app that aggregates bookings for flights, hotels, and destinations. Last month, it launched its newest mobile search tool, Destinations on Google. The search engine aggregates results from different airlines and hotels to provide a variety of options, in the same way that competitor sites like Kayak and Priceline do.
But Google’s search tool lets users compare travel prices across locations within a single country. For example, a user on Priceline can compare flights and hotels only within one city at a time. Within Google’s mobile browser and app, a user can search for “Germany vacations” and see different flight and hotel prices within each city on the same page (e.g. compare flights to Berlin vs. flights to Frankfurt). After choosing the best one, users click on the option and are taken directly to the airline’s or hotel’s website to book their dates.
But one major characteristic that could hold back Destinations on Google is the lack of a single, recorded platform. So launching a stand-alone app would likely include a place where users can go back repeatedly to check all of their travel details.
Both the new app and Destinations on Google will likely have a huge impact because they are mobile-only; in the US, travelers are increasingly using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to book lodging and airfare.
It’s expected that mobile will make up over half of all digital bookings in the US this year — the other half taking place on desktop computers. Mobile’s share is forecast to jump to almost 70% by 2019. Moving forward, travel sites and apps should focus on building up mobile browser and app capabilities to better compete against newcomers like Google.
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