Cartographic search: a leading tool to answer all the traveller’s needs
All the players related to the tourism sector offers maps based on Google, Bing, Mappy, ViaMichelin…
However, most often these maps are only used to localise a place (an hotel, a monument, an agency…). Therefore this is quite restrictive regarding to the traveller’s needs and the possibilities offered by the touristic sector.
Indeed, travellers need information, inspiration, and some help to plan their travels… A cartographic tool as a map can answer all these needs and at the same time help a company to differentiate it-self from the others.
A map as an entry point in the search process
All the travel industry players, either producers, retailers or metasearchers have search engine in evidence on their home page where the user need to fill several fields.
We only find few exceptions as for example Belvilla or La France du Nord au Sud (two specialists of holiday rentals) that rely on a map to start the search process. This map is as much visible as the search engine and its functionalities allow the user to go deeper in his search process without filling any fields.
These initiatives are interesting because they enrich the way of browsing a travel web site.
Some other players have been further and offer a web site completely build around the map like:
- Mappy , originally a cartographic specialists
- HotelMap or RoomAtlas, two website mashup
- Or some travel agencies or hotel reservation specialists that have launch a dedicated web site like HotelView (Expedia) or Explorotel (WIHP & Lookotel)
In spite of HotelView is not user friendly at the moment, the fact that a leading player like Expedia just launched (June 2010) an additional web site based on a map confirm that they are potential in this way. This is confirmed by a Tony Loeb from Explorotel. Among the 4 search modes offered (classic, map, pictures and based on reviews), their visitors prefer the search on map mode.
A map as an inspirational tool
These website built on a map make the exploration easier. They allow answering at the same time to the users searching for inspiration and to the others searching for information in order to take a decision.
All the websites named previously help the users to find inspiration and information. However there are some players that clearly create their map as an inspirational tool.
For example, we can talk about Kayak Explore (on kayak.com) which use a lexical field related to inspiration (explore, thinking about…), use original search criteria (activities, temperatures, flight duration…) and a very visual display of the results (the whole page is a map).
On the offline side, we can find TTvisiondesk (also called Extreme Search) from TravelTainment/Amadeus. This tool is based on an interactive map and offer new possibilities to the travel agent to engage his customer in the search process.
A map to plan and save a trip
This allows displaying a visual resume of the trip, but it can also be a starting point for additional search like a hotel, in-destination events and activities…
Thus, a map can really be a planification tool. It offer wide opportunities, especially with the evolution of functionalities like Google Street View, Bing Streetside or the possibilities revealed by augmented reality (have a look for example at UrbanDive, the service of immersive views from the French YellowPages).
To conclude, if some of you are still not convinced by the possibilities and the potential of a map in the tourism sector (whatever your core activity), just have a look at what Google is doing. Its array of functionalities for travellers doesn’t stop growing on Google Maps: plan an itinerary (by foot, by car, or using the public transportation), find places and information about places (photos, description, reviews…), compare hotel prices, visualise a destination…