Google Launches New AI Travel Tools: What’s New in Search and Maps


Skift Take

Google is the among the tech giants investing in a reimagined, AI-powered future of travel planning and booking. How can the smaller companies compete?

Google said Wednesday that it is adding several new tools meant to help travelers plan trips and explore destinations. 

Most notably, they include the ability for Google Search to create itineraries based on prompts from users, as well as enhanced information in Maps about certain cities and places to visit.  

Google has added an experimental AI-based itinerary creation capability to its traditional Search tool for users that opt in. 

Users can prompt Search for an itinerary for a certain destination, and it responds with flight and hotel options, as well as suggestions for attractions and dining. Any links that Google provides bring the users to travel company websites, where they can complete the bookings. 

To create the itineraries, Google said the AI draws on information from across the web, as well as reviews and photos that users post about businesses. 

Maps Discoverable Lists

Users can then export the trip ideas to Gmail, Docs, or Maps, the company said. 

Google said in May 2023 that it would be experimenting with integrating generative AI into search and invited users to test the new tech. The trip itinerary capability is a new piece of that experiment. 

It’s available in English in the U.S. only. Users can try it by enrolling in Search Labs and enabling the Search Generative Experience.

Microsoft relaunched Bing in February 2023 with similar attributes powered by OpenAI and has made updates along the way, such as for personalized event suggestions. 

Several startups have emerged with similar products over the months, a handful having received small amounts of venture capital. Since ChatGPT was released in November 2022, experts have questioned whether entrepreneurs stand a chance against giants like Microsoft and Google, which have vast amounts of data and resources. 

Recommendations and Customizable Lists in Google Maps 

Google is adding a capability to its Maps app meant to provide users with more details about destinations for select cities in the U.S. and Canada. 

It includes recommendations from locals and publishers, like The Infatuation, as well as lists of “trending, top, and hidden gem” restaurants created by info from Google Maps. 

Another new Maps feature: Users will be able organize lists they create within the app. The list creation tool has existed for a while, but the new capability allows users to organize based on their top favorites or something else. The lists can also link to content from social media channels, meant to add context for anyone viewing a saved list. The list update is being released globally this month for Android and Apple devices.

As Google continues to enhance Maps, the app becomes a bigger threat to companies like Tripadvisor, which primarily offers users a similar mapping and list-making experience. Tripadvisor’s hotel metasearch business has already taken a hit since Google Hotels entered the market. 

Translation 

Google is “soon” adding a new capability, accessible through select Android mobile devices, that’s meant to translate content on the screen without switching apps. It could be especially useful to travelers trying to find their way around a country where they don’t speak the language. Google used the examples of translating a PDF restaurant menu or a social media post. 

Search Translate with Circle to Search

It’s part of the Circle to Search tool that was released in January, which allows Android users to initiate a Google search by circling text or an image on the screen.



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