Google Earth in the travel industry

September 13, 2006

Google Earth seems to be the next bandwagon that travel companies are grabbing hold of to try and make themselves look forward thinking and switched on.

The first (as far as I know) to do this was Thomson. Thomson have shown themselves to have a real innovative approach to the online sector and they’ve embraced Earth, blogging, podcasting etc before most others and should be applauded for that! I’m sure this is helped by having a head of new media (GD) who genuinely appears passionate and open to new ideas. Oh to have someone like that here 🙂

Anyway, I believe the Adventure Company were next to join the Earth bandwagon.

Now British Airways have not only put their destination airports and flight prices on it but they’ve also listed all the hotels they offer as well. The really nice angle to BA’s use of Google Earth is the way they’ve tied it in with their offline marketing. They’re using satellite images from Earth in their TV adverts and have reproduced the cloud prices from that advert on Earth as well. Hats off to a very clever marketing team!

Now while this is all great and is helping to move the travel industry forward online, my question is ‘what about the user’? Where’s the value to a user who’s browsing the Thomson or BA website? They have to download Earth if they don’t already have it, then load the layer, then get taken off the website into another application only to be sent back to the website again to read full details of an offer or to book. Not too much of a problem I’ll admit, but it is making the user experience disjointed.

I believe that all these companies have missed a trick! While Earth is a great gimmick and something they should be doing, they should have focused on integrating Google Maps into their website first. Once all their product was on Maps they could easily have created an Earth layer from the data. Integrating Google Maps into a travel website with all their products displayed and linked to geographically is infinitely more useful to the average user. They remain in their web browser, remain in the website, can access associated content quickly and easily and if well implemented can display only available product on the maps adding far more value than Earth can right now.

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2 Responses to “Google Earth in the travel industry”

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