Search without Searching – implications for the travel industry.

Search
(Originally written for Web In Travel)

I've written a couple of articles lately on websites/applications that allow us to plan a trip.  Essentially they act as a portal providing access to information around certain aspects of the trip – the flight, the accommodation, and, as I recently reviewed in the case of NileGuide, events happening in and around my destination when I plan to be there.  All good stuff and very useful.  And, quite clever in terms of some of its functionality and application but just how clever are these things?  I really don't mean this disrespectfully in any sense.  But I've been reading a couple of articles just recently on a Google initiative they call SWS – or Search Without Searching

When using NileGuide or even just booking flights online we are essentially telling the application everything about our trip – where, when, how many people etc.  We tell it where we want to stay and how much we want to pay.  In the case of NileGuide events we tell it what kinds of things we might like and through some fixed criteria (that, frustratingly, someone else decided) we are then presented with options albeit very beautifully and intuitively. 

But one of the core principles around SWS is exactly the absence of this telling.  Google talks about presenting you with search results that you didn't even know you wanted.  How do they think this might be accomplished? Well, through analyzing everything they can find out about us from our (presumably public) online profiles.  I don't want to dwell on the potentially scary privacy aspects around this here – plenty has been said before and will be said again, so for now I'd like to focus on what I see as the huge potential here specifically for the travel industry.

So, imagine that I’ve been tweeting about how stressed I am at work and need a break.  And a few days ago I ‘liked’ a friend’s pictures on Facebook from a trip they took to Vietnam.  And, the SWS algorithms were able to look at recent hotel bookings I’d made on AsiaRooms and some positive comments I’d made about a specific hotel type I liked on TripAdvisor.  Imagine all this.  Getting the idea now?  So, coupled with these and perhaps some recent search history going back a few months and some SocialGraph ‘likes’, the Google algorithms then cobble together a ‘trip theme template’ (my own expression) and then run through all the portal stuff looking at flights and accommodation etc and tie this up with my diary free time to come up with the pre-packaged trip along with dates, flights and all the usual stuff that I might otherwise have to go searching for.  I then get notified from the ‘intelligent’ travel site…”Hey Carl, we think you could do with a break now and we’ve put this itinerary together for you leaving Thursday next week and getting you back in time for your first day back at work and that important review meeting” And then there’s my full itinerary with all its components listed out perhaps with quick options to fine tune various aspects.

It’s not here yet but, you know what, I think this kind of stuff is just around the corner and for me, at least, it represents the next kind of paradigm shift that the ever social and interactive web will lead us towards.

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