An unapologetic look at Hospitality

Google Hotel Finder (experiment)

August 10, 2011 · Leave a Comment

GoogleGoogle Hotel Finder quietly launched an experimental web site named Hotel Finder. Well not too quietly as I’ve seen more than a few mentions of it online. Just like all of Google’s offerings it has sparse design, offers a few unique tricks and is (for the most part) lightening fast. So if it walks like Google, quacks like Google and smells like Google, then it must be a duck, right? Creating Hotel Finder may have been duck soup for Google (so why didn’t they do it sooner), I think Hotel Finder is pretty much a dead duck (I promise no more duck jokes for the rest of this article).

Google’s new Hotel Finder is “the Google way” to quickly find hotel deals. Like you would expect from Google, it simply works. It being Google, I had expected more. Shamefully there isn’t. Just like with their other new offering Google+, they had plenty of products to copy from and Hotel Finder even more so, looks like a “me too” product.

The lackluster name of the product aside, Google gives us four ways to “find the perfect hotel” (see image on the left). It wouldn’t be Google if they hadn’t improved on the way you can search for a hotel and I must admit this rocks! After you type in the city you want to stay in and your dates you are presented with a map that shows a polygon representing where the search effort was centered. The beauty of it is that you can adjust the shape of the polygon and even add more. This makes searches like “I could stay in uptown or in east but want to avoid downtown” a snap. This would normally take multiple searches, but not with Google because I can lay multiple shapes on the map. Well done!

Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ends. Google boasts that it’s going to show you the popular locations by highlighting them on the map. Great! But they do nothing to tell you what made the location popular. Hotel FInder hotspots Look at the map for Memphis. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that most tourists want to be close to Beale street. If feeding beer to a goat is indeed your thing, yeah that’s where you’d want to be. But what does this tell me about my hotel options? Nothing! Is this a safe part of town? Does it have kid friendly activities? Am I close to the convention center? Given how Google seems to know everything about anything, this is a missed opportunity.

After you looked at hotel options for a while Hotel Finder gives you the option to short list your favorites. Meh! Sure it is handy to have your personal picks at the top of the screen but its what I’ve come to expect from a hotel search. Not something to brag about.

Last on the list of “major features” is the price. This is where Hotel Finder operates much the same as Kayak or any other travel search engine for that matter. Like Kayak, Google shows the lowest possible rate. However, unlike Bing you have to click a button before you get to see on which site that rate is available. Every time I looked at a hotel, the brand site was listed but Finder didn’t show the rate. Good luck converting those window shoppers to brand buyers!

What is very interesting is that Google shows the rate as a percentage up or down from the average rate for that hotel. I think that is interesting because I work in an industry closely aligned to revenue management, but what does it do for the average consumer? I think the knee jerk reaction of the average buyer is to select another hotel. Thanks Hotel Finder! I had a perfectly good reason why my August weekend rate is 10% over my yearly average, but you failed to explain that to my prospective customer.

What it offers the hotelier however is a pretty useful insight into his competitors’ pricing strategy. For that reason alone Google Hotel Finder is something to watch. Not that it takes away the function of a dedicated rate-shopper tool like AnyRate — There is just too much data to look at without the help of a carefully crafted comp-set report, but interesting nonetheless.

As it is, Hotel Finder does the hotel a disservice. Not showing the brand.com rate is a big no no. I am not so sure that the average consumer knows what to do with the percentage away from average (however, Bing includes a similar feature so maybe it does work). As a consumer I find the experience lacking. There are some odd user interface choices I have to make to get to the data I want and overall the product is not very informative. Since this is an experimental release there is of course room for improvement so we’ll wait and see what the future brings. Meanwhile I would love to hear your opinion!

Categories: Hospitality · Search
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