Google Flights now pushes flexible destination search, aiming at trip inspiration
Travelers can say goodbye to needing exact dates or destination names to do research.
Underneath the traditional flight search box is now a box where a user can click a few filters to receive relevant, photo-heavy suggestions.
A user could tap particular dates in intuitive, generic formats — such as “last weekend in March”, “July”, or “one week” — rather than have to commit to specific calendar dates.
Users can also pick from a dozen interests, such as “adventure travel,” “culture”, or “ecotourism.”
In our recent test, pcking “shopping” brought Dubai up to the top of recommendations.
Picking “honeymoon” as an additional filter returned the resorts near Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt at the top. Clicking “islands” fetched a recommendation for Funchal, Portugal, among other spots.
A user can choose to see trip recommendations only for particular continents, too.
For each recommendation, Google offers “live” airplane ticket prices, based on travel from your nearest major airport, and a range of hotel options.
For years, online travel sites have focused on the transaction end of the trip-buying process. But there’s always been interest in helping travelers pick places to go, too. Six years ago, metasearch company Kayak opened its Explore feature, which let users see where they might fly to for a particular budget.
Last November, metasearch startup Hipmunk unveiled a Discover feature for its mobile apps that lets users click on trip ideas by theme, and then filter results by travel dates.
Most travelers are open-minded when they start their research — with 54% of 5,000 American travelers saying they aren’t decided on where they’re traveling when they sit down to plan, according to a Road to Decision poll commissioned by the search giant in 2014.
Google has shown interest in the inspiration funnel before. Since summer 2013, it began enabling users to search for regions or whole countries by typing in phrases like “Flights to Europe” or “Flights to the United States” to get wide-ranging results.
It’s not clear how Google plans to market its new interface, if at all. Not every Google user knows to type in the main URL and find these homepages. Many travelers just do searches in the general search box for terms like “San Francisco to Los Angeles” flights.”
As of now, Google isn’t displacing search results on search keywords and terms like “Where should I go in vacation?“, which currently goes to sites like TripAdvisor. (For years, TripAdvisor has had a quiz-style inspiration tool.)
Google’s move comes around the same times as a similar one by a major travel brand: Last week, Booking.com unveiled a destination finder search tool.
Sean O’Neill is Editor-in-Chief of Tnooz.
Before joining us, Sean was the future of travel columnist at BBC Travel, senior editor of BudgetTravel.com, and an associate editor at Kiplinger’s. He now lives in New Jersey, after a four-year stint in London. Follow him on Twitter.