Google has launched Destinations on Google, a new mobile travel-planning experience that lets users search for destinations, view suggested itineraries and price their flight and hotel.
Destinations on Google is accessible through a Google search on a mobile phone’s browser or on the Google Mobile app. It can be accessed through a number of queries, like "x destinations." "X" could be a state, country or continent.
“X vacation” provides a travel guide for a city, state or country, as well as a grid of destinations for a continent. “X travel” provides a travel guide for a city, state or country.
“We’re working very hard on making sure that we embed this in the Google search experience when it makes the most sense for our users based on their queries,” said Derek Coatney, project manager for Destinations on Google.
For example, searching “Europe destinations” brings up the top two destinations — London and Paris. Each destination entry includes a photo, a brief blurb (for instance, London is the “U.K. capital and site of Buckingham Palace”) as well as prices for a flight and hotel (this week at $620 and $120, respectively). Clicking on “more destinations” beneath the initial two brings up other locales in Europe with similar blurbs.
According to Coatney, flights are based off airports nearest to the user. The displayed prices are the lowest for flights and hotels within a six-month period, aggregated from Google Flights and Google’s hotel booking program.
Coatney said that destinations are ranked similarly to how Google ranks websites: based on popularity. Searches can be filtered by date (flexible or exact), price, number of travelers, and interests (hiking or architecture, for example.)
Once a user has hit a destination page, they can navigate to one of two parts: “explore” or “plan a trip.”
Under the explore tab, they can see photos; read about the destination; see suggested daily itineraries; view top sights; see the average temperature, precipitation and popularity by month; watch videos; and see “other places to explore” that are nearby (the Athens page suggests Santorini, Rhodes and Kos, among other locations).
So far, 201 cities have itineraries, according to Radhika Malpani, director of engineering for Google Travel. They give users suggestions on what to visit in a day, how long to stay at each location and how to get to the next spot. For instance, the Paris travel guide offers a “72 Hours in Paris” itinerary, incorporating popular sites into the three-day trip.
“We think we’ve pulled together a lot of those common questions users have when they’re trying to figure out if they want to visit a place,” Coatney said.
Once users have clicked onto the “plan a trip” tab, they can view flight and hotel prices and modify their dates of travel and the number of travelers.
The total trip price changes dynamically as users scroll through a price graph changing their potential dates of travel, according to Eric Zimmerman, director of product management at Google Travel. The price graph includes six months’ worth of flight and hotel data to enable users to see how prices vary over time.
Destinations on Google includes three popular flights on the “plan a trip” page, with the option to click through to view the popular flights plus more options on Google Flights.
The page also includes a selection of hotels, with the option to click through and view more — including starred reviews and photos — on Google, with links to book.
Malpani pointed out another feature Destinations on Google offers: in-country itineraries based on trips people actually take.
“What we’ve done here is we’ve aggregated the anonymous [visitation] data from Google Maps to figure out what it is that people actually do when they go to a particular country,” Malpani said.
For instance, a Google search for “France travel” brings up a travel guide. When users click through from the initial search page, they are given a few paragraphs about France, followed by suggested itineraries that cover various parts of the country, like “4 days in Paris, Burgundy, and Lyon” and “5 days in Paris, Strasbourg, and Colmar.”
Google’s tactic of making Destinations on Google mobile-specific will likely meet a rising demand. According to Google search data, mobile travel inquiries increased by almost 50% from January 2015 to January 2016. Additionally, mobile devices account for almost half of the company’s Google Flights queries, and over 60% of destination information queries.