Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Travolution@ITBPhoCusWright--Godfather says Google to launch travel site

"It is only a matter of time before Google launches a travel search engine."

Such was the message from the so-called Godfather of search marketing Danny Sullivan, chief technology officer of Search Engine Land, who opened the PhoCusWright@ITB conference in Berlin.

Obviously, Sullivan is a religious Travolution reader. We've been reporting regularly about Google's flirtation with its own travel arm, dubbed Troogle.

Visitors to searching for a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, for example, will now find direct links to the leading US online travel agencies--Expedia, Orbitz, Cheaptickets, Hotwire, Priceline and Travelocity--in the first search result.

Visitors can also search for departure times directly from the Google results page.

Surprisingly, Google currently does not charge the online agencies for the privilege of sending what are likely millions of holiday searchers to their sites, according to Sullivan.

But the free ride is not likely to last.

"Google is doing this now because it's good for them. They know these agencies are where people are looking for travel and Google wants to show consumers that it can do a lot more than just a general web search."

Sullivan predicts Google will eventually go the way of Yahoo! Travel, which offers a similar "smart" search result, but restricts the results to its online agency subsidiary FareChase.

He added that it will also only be a matter of time before recognised Google users (so those with a gmail or google account) will begin to receive personalised search results, which will vary from the generic results that an unknown Google user would receive.

Google subscribers can already personalise the Google home page with the local time, weather and horoscope.

The big question remains: When will Google finally reveal its true plans for the travel sector?

We still have two full days of conferencing ahead of us, so stay tuned.

Tricia Holly Davis, chief writer, Travolution

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