Will the newly launched ‘Google Trips’ run out the online travel startup space in India?


Days after Google announced its new text-app Google Allo, which is giving even WhatsApp a run for its money, it has now launched an app it refers to as ‘a personalised tour guide’. That’s right, Google Trips is here to make your travel lives a billion times easier and make you hop onto that next flight for a much-needed break. But the question we’ve got to ask is, how is it going to affect the companies that have their peg-line in online travel?

In the past couple of years, in India especially, there has been a sudden boom in the arena of travel startups due to a variety of factors such as changes in customer behaviour, ecosystem and the steady digitalisation of the travel industry in general, with companies following Make My Trip’s example of going online, almost a decade ago.

Although startups like Yatra.com have reached their million-dollar targets and still occupy a significant place in the travel industry in the country, following Make My Trip’s dominance, names like Tripoto, iTraveller and Routofy have managed to make their way up the startup ladder. They have roped in the right investors and reached out to millennials in particular.

Coming back to Google Trips, there is a reason why travel startups should definitely be worried. Carrying the tagline of the multi-billion dollar conglomerate, Trips offers you features that depict the A-Z of solo travel on a golden platter. First and foremost, one of the things that work to its favour the most is that the app works offline, too. More often than not, when you reach a destination overseas or even visit a remote area in your very own country, chances are that you will run out of your mobile data as soon as you step down from your flight. In an age where we can’t survive without GPS, it’s remarkable that we can function this app even when our network gives up on us.

Users are required to have a Google Account, naturally, so that the app can extract relevant information about your trip, such as your flight tickets and hotel confirmations, so that it can plan an itinerary around it. The app features a list of about 200 main cities around the world, and its key feature – ‘Things to do’ – offers a custom itinerary of the places you can sightsee, have your meals at, popular destinations and more, depending on how long you plan to stay at the said city. At the same time, it also gives you suggestions based on the ratings and reviews of others to give you a closer idea of what might suit you – a kind of ‘algorithm based tourism’.

The best part is, since it gathers automatic information from Gmail and Google Maps, it can not only list out popular places that you can visit and the best eateries of the area, but it will also give you the estimated time to get to each place so that you can plan out your whole day from the very start and not miss out on a single place – basically organising your data into a fixed time schedule. In this way, it acts as a part tour guide, so instead of a plump man with a baseball cap and a whistle around his neck holding up a flag to make you follow his lead, you have just the data on your smartphone to follow.

It also contains a ‘Getting around’ tab, where you get all the information regarding the cost, efficiency and availability of the public transport system, and under the ‘Need to know’ tab, you can find out about the local shopping scenario – the most popular markets that are also cost effective, as well as currency measures, healthcare and more.

Although it lacks the charm of getting lost in a scenic place and finding your way back, experimenting with foreign food at random restaurants, getting the locals’ opinion on what you should do and where you should go and discovering things as you go by, there is no denying the fact that for the organised traveller, this is everything you need in one screen.

Although the newly launched travel startups offer a lot of the same features that Google Trips is proud to highlight, none of them have every aspect of travel-planning as meticulously organised into one device, link and window. Additionally, not too many of them offer you the option of working offline and saving your entire itinerary on your phone beforehand. This app is almost like a combination of Gmail, Google Maps, Zomato, Airbnb and Lonely Planet all in one. As Google Trips makes the future look even brighter for all travel-lovers, others in the field look on nervously.


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