Sunday, February 12, 2006

Google Earth, the new frontier

The travel world is notoriously sluggish in picking up new developments.

If any product lends itself to selling online, it's travel. But even in this day and age anywhere in the world you can still walk into travel agencies where girls are sitting behind a counter, in a medieval setting surrounded by stacks of heavy paper brochures, a speaker phone blaring waiting queue sounds, and a PC stuck on one single reservation engine. The other day I ran into an agency with PCs that still worked under DOS.

Meanwhile the problem solves itself. Online sites flourish and by the summer of 2005 88% of consumers used the Internet to either research or purchase their travel, or both. In 2006 this number will easily exceed 90%.

Given this dramatic and growing percentage it's amazing that online sites in turn are slow on the uptake when new and dramatic opportunities present themselves. And that opportunity is is Google Earth.

I've been involved in the travel sector for quite a while and the one thing I remember in awe is the ease with which you can sell your product once you're in a position to show it to someone who wants to travel. Google Earth offers that opportunity.

And what an opportunity it is, offering visitors to your site real views of hotels and resorts, and even flight paths approaching your favourite destinations. Kudos to online travel magazine, who have started this trend by offering their selection of 500 favourite hotels as a Google Earth KMZ file on their site.

Meanwhile the rest of the online travel world do their best to compete on price and erode margins. Travel entrepreneurs, where art thou?

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