Google launched a tool called Hotel Finder, Search Engine Watch notes. While it’s labelled as an “experiment” it’s pretty advanced and definitely a threat to online travel bookers like Kayak and Expedia.
Hotel Finder is well designed with pretty pictures, it’s integrated with Google Maps and Google’s local listings service Places.
Google has been trying to get into the travel search business, which is very lucrative but where it’s behind specialised players like Kayak. Google bought ITA Software, the company that provides flight data to engines like Kayak.
And the thing to know about the travel industry is that the lucrative part isn’t flight search–the margins in the airline industry are wafer thin–but hotels, where booking revenues are much bigger. So if Google comes out with a really good hotel search/booking tool and integrates it with the rest of its search, it’s going straight for the kneecaps of all the other guys like Kayak, Expedia, Priceline and Travelzoo.