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Google has been increasing its focus on travel for a while now.
Along with recent updates to its online airfare comparison tool, Google Flights (which now tells users the cheapest times to book tickets), it’s also launched its first native app in the sector.
Google Trips is designed to be every traveller’s ‘personal tour guide’ – but what sets it apart from other travel apps?
Here’s a look at some of its key features.
Organisation in one place
While Google Flights wants to disrupt sites like Kayak and Skyscanner (i.e. the places people go to book), Google Trips aims to take the reins immediately after this point, helping travellers to plan and organise their holidays.
Once users sign in using their Gmail accounts, the app provides a list of past trips as well as future ones, keeping things like hotel and flight details all in one place.
As you might expect, with the same style and design of Google's 'Nearby' search funtion, it's pretty easy to use. And this convenience appears to be one of its biggest selling points – not to mention a reason existing Google account holders might naturally feel inclined to download the app.
With more than 1bn monthly active users, Gmail gives Trips a ready and waiting audience. So unlike other travel apps such as TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet, it offers the unbeatable incentive of tapping into a service many of us already use and adding a whole heap of extras on top.
Curating travel plans is not Google Trips’ only draw. It’s also designed to offer inspiration, using its ‘Things to Do’ feature to offer a wealth of information about hotspots, restaurants and pretty much everything you need to know about an area.
The amount of detail offered is impressive. Again, unsurprising considering Google's gargantuan pool of data.
Google has certainly covered all bases, ensuring users will reach for the app during both advanced planning and while in-the-moment.
Users can map out daily itineraries, delving down into deeper information such as walking distances and even how long tourists typically spend in locations. There's also a nice real-time element, too. If you’re using it online, the app will update weather conditions, offer relevant suggestions and even give random recommendations if you fancy going off the beaten track.
Map integration and utility
Another significant feature of Google Trips is the map function, which allows users to easily access Google Maps directly from the app.
This functional aspect is very welcome. While many people already use Google to discover nearby places, the tech giant is clearly hoping to be a one-stop travel shop, so to speak, joining the dots in the over-arching 'Google' user experience.
Lastly, one of my favourite features in Google Trips is the fact that it can be used offline.
Users have the option to download itineraries and information to refer to at a later date, solving the problem of international data charges - one reason many people fail to use travel apps while abroad.
I've only recently discovered that Google Maps can actually be downloaded already - a fact which Google apparently doesn't like to advertise too much. With Google Trips, however, this comes to the forefront, with the feature being nicely highlighted to let users know that it is there.
So, will Google Trips spell trouble for the likes of TripAdvisor?
With popularity and loyalty towards the latter already being well-established, Google might have its work cut out convincing travellers that it can provide the same kind of knowledge and travel expertise. Likewise, let's not forget that Google Trips does not allow bookings from within the app, meaning the user experience will be disrupted at this point.
Having said that, with its attention to detail, there's a lot to entice users back. Data is obviously where its real strengths lie, and combined with a familiar interface and easy-to-use design, it could mean a successful step up for Google's travel presence.