Google is exploring how it might integrate attractions, tours and activities at a deeper level into search and other products, along similar lines to its push into hotels.
Tnooz understands a number of as yet unconfirmed organisations have been approached with a view to placing APIs containing product information and pricing against various services already listed within the Google ecosystem of destination content.
The project is believed to be coordinated from within Google's ITA Software division in Boston, US, with a plan to introduce the functionality to North American users only in the initial first phase.
Details are inevitably unclear at this very early stage (and, typically, Google may not even proceed with the project if tests and agreements do not reach a fully baked product), but the idea is to somewhat mirror its existing hotel service by providing details of attractions, tours and activities via Maps, Local and their respective Google Plus pages.
Currently, a service or product appears in search results and Google serves the product box on the right-hand side.
With the new functionality, APIs from relevant suppliers would alter the box to potentially look similar to how Google now features hotels:
With drop-down menu to book the product:
Presumably the same functionality could be extended to how products appear on Google Maps, Local and on mobile devices (tours and activities arguably being the one sector of the industry with most to gain from always connected, on-the-road travellers).
Google could, of course, conceivably roll the entire concept to into a Hotel Finder-type standalone service purely for attractions, tours and activities.
How this will all play out in terms of commercial and placement is yet to be determined.
When there are multiple booking suppliers of a product, Google could simply list by price - or it could eventually, similar to hotels once again, order via a PPC bidding system.
Keen observers of the evolution of tours and activities somewhat into the mainstream will note that TripAdvisor's relatively recent muscling in on the sector may have been the trigger for Google to follow.
Inevitably, a Google official says:
"We're constantly experimenting with ways to improve the travel planning experience for users, but don't have anything specific to announce."
Whether this will be the dramatic big step in that evolution of tours and activities, which many have talked about for some time, still remains to be seen.
Indeed, getting involved with Google, by providing APIs to feed the system, may not necessarily lead to a sales bonanza - but in the increasingly competitive marketplace for new product, dangling the "we're on Google" carrot in front of suppliers could be quite a compelling sales tool.
Nevertheless, those that have scoffed (sometimes rightly) at Google's attempts to roll out products in isolation, such as Flight Search and Hotel Finder, will probably admit to some degree that the search giant's foray into travel is now much more organic and bigger picture.
Turning its attention to the tours and activities sector makes perfect sense when viewing how Google has evolved over time from a pure search engine (with paid-for listings) to a far wider and comprehensive travel planning tool.
It's worth noting that, forgotten in the weeks leading up to the $700 million acquisition of ITA Software in the summer of 2010, Google bought travel planning service Ruba - an acqui-hire on the one hand, but interesting also because the company was known to be developing some kind of metasearch service for attractions at the time.
Like the 3,000-piece Christmas present from a few years back, Google's own jigsaw for the traveller is being added to steadily (albeit rather slowly).
NB:Jigsaw travel image via Shutterstock.