There are a number of pieces missing from the Google travel jigsaw. So far its focus has been on data-driven services – Maps, Flight Search, Hotel Finder, Places and theÂ ubiquitousÂ click-based advertising.
These services have all been good, but they are much like getting travel advice from a white-shirted accountant. Good, solid, reliable information but very flat and uninspiring.
What makes you want to go to a place to begin with? When you have chosen a place – what makes you want to explore further? The inspiration phase of leisure trip planning research has been by far the hardest for tech-based services to master.
Google has announced (and started sending out Beta invites to) a new service, known asÂ Schemer, which attempts to compete in this gap.
Effectively it is local destination ideas based on tips from your (Google+) friends, celebrities (oh yes!) and professional destination content producers (ie. travel writers).
It uses content with the likes of Zagat, the review service it purchased in September this year.
From first look there doesn’t seem to be any commercialising of these experiences (nothing has an obvious price or is bookable) but it is as yet unlaunched and booking would be easy enough to add on later.
The travel industry companies most at risk from this move by Google are the 30 or so nascent person to person (P2P) tour guide marketplaces (that I reviewed back in September).
Many of these P2P services are based on individuals providing and consuming interesting destination experiences together.
With Google already having a Google+ social profile acting as the central glue, Schemer could move into this P2P tour guide area as the user could essentially see who it is booking from (and build trust).
Tie that in with Google Checkout and you have a powerful combination which most existing P2P tour guide marketplaces would struggle to compete with.
The second group of companies at risk from this move by Google is, well, everyone else.
If destination research moves to starting at Google Schemer rather than Google Search, then Google will be able to pitch flights, hotels and other travel services, without having to necessarily work within the confines of their existing web properties.
We are a long way from this though, of course – the service is yet to fully launch
And Google’s own, rather peculiar introduction to the service: