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Google has added a new feature to its Hotel Finder that filters hotels based on their maximum travel time from a location or landmark.

For example, you can ask to be shown all the hotels that are within 20 minutes travel time by public transport from Hyde Park.

The results can also be filtered on the time it takes to travel on foot, or you can ask to view all the hotels in a particular area of a city - such as Soho.

Hotel Finder then highlights the potential hotels on a map as shown below.

In a blog post announcing the new function, called ‘Hotels by Travel Time’, Google said the tool is still experimental and only available in cities where it has partnered with transit agencies to integrate their data into Google maps. This includes nearly all major cities in North America and Europe, and a growing number in Asia and Africa.

This feature is not only for tourists. You might be travelling on business and want to make sure you can get to the office or that conference centre.”

Competition in the online travel market has been heating up of late, with several major players updating their services or introducing new products.

Research from Econsultancy and Toluna Quick shows that 71% of consumers have browsed for a flight, hotel or holiday online in the last six months.

In December Google risked antagonising its advertisers when it trialled placing ads for Hotel Finder at the top of search listings.

Plus, just last week Expedia launched a new crowdsourced hotel search function that shows users the best deals based on what other customers have purchased.

STA Travel has also unveiled a new partnership with social network Gap Daemon that will help the student travel company strengthen its grip on the gap year travel market.

Social could be a key factor in the travel industry, and Foursquare has indicated that it is hoping to attract tourists by offering a new ‘Explore’ function that pinpoints restaurant information in major cities based on peer reviews.

At the premium end of the market, Four Seasons has spent $18m upgrading its website to offer customers a more personalised booking experience and try to drive up its online revenue which currently only accounts for 12% of total revenue.

So as competition for tourists' money increases, it is likely that Google’s experimental tool will be forced to innovate and continue to roll out new functions throughout 2012.

David Moth

Published 23 January, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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