Google City Tours: Start of Something Good

As many others have discussed, Google has introduced a new service in Labs called City Tours. It allows users to plan and manage itineraries on a map. Points of interest can be added and removed with ease and it also will make a bunch of suggestions (perhaps the best feature) at the outset.

Type in Paris for example and it provides a pre-populated list of attractions and places to visit:

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You don’t get lists of hotels or restaurants; there seems to be an emphasis on museums. But Google’s full database is accessible to this tool. To add a site/sight or location, you simply “search” for it and it’s added:

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At present an imperfect tool but still useful. It will probably get a good deal better in a short time. For example, Google has lots of video and other content about these places that don’t make their way onto this map. Also there’s no StreetView (yet) here, which would be a perfect use of the content in this travel context.

When you click on any of the pushpins, you get this kind of an info window:

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Note the pull-down ratings menu. Presumably Google will use this feedback to rank and present trip suggestions in the future. In addition, it’s probably going to look at ratings and lists from other sources (e.g., TripAdvisor) to make content and ranking determinations.

There have long been rumors about Google wanting to go into travel in a more full fledged way. By comparison Bing (Farecast) and Yahoo! in particular have substantial travel properties. Google has experimented with travel on YouTube. However there’s a great opportunity here to use Maps, YouTube, Street View, Wikipedia, Panoramio and other data to create a really useful and fun travel planning tool. There’s also a really compelling mobile use case for a more robust version of City Tours, along the lines I’m describing.

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