Six years ago, travel brands started trying to turn search upside down by removing the need to have a destination in mind prior to shopping.
Kayak launched its Explore feature, which let you see where you might go for a certain budget. Around the same time, Hotels.co.uk launched a similar trip-inspiration tool (since removed).
There have been many other attempts -- especially by startups -- to catch consumers at the research phase -- or the high-end of the transaction funnel, as marketers say.
But consumers have been slow to adopt these trip-inspiration tools.
Now Booking.com is making its own foray into this type of search, betting either that consumers are finally ready for it or that the technology has finally improved enough to provide relevant results.
Yesterday the Priceline Group-owned online travel agency pulled the curtain back on its Destination Finder tool.
From a drop-down menu, users can choose things they are looking for, such as "Friendly people".
If you chose "friendly people" in "Istanbul" from the drop-down menus, you would be directed to a destination page about Istanbul's attractions and hotels. (See screenshot.)
The tool pulls its data from more than 26 million "recommendations" extracted from its user-generated content.
Some of these details are partly pulled from questions that Booking.com's content managers have elicited from users in its destination forums, such as "What makes the people from Istanbul so friendly? Tell us your story." -- which generated more than 8,000 responses just about that one destination.
If you don't pick a destination, you would be directed to its "Friendly People" trip inspiration page.
Precision isn't everything here: 5,967 destinations are known for being great for friendly people, according to Booking.com's users.
But as a means of jump-starting trip research, a tool like this might be useful to a certain sort of potential traveler.
Destination Finder's launch happens to follow in the wake of a marketing campaign Booking.com launched at the start of the year themed around a Best2016Ever microsite, where consumers shared the destinations they planned to visit soon.
Inspiration seems to be a theme a few other brands are trying to associate themselves with right now.
Exhibit A: Airbnb's latest campaign, for instance, is pushing a ‘Love this? Live There’ ad campaign that highlights the rarity of some of the properties and destinations on its platform, such as treehouses in the jungle.
Amadeus VC arm brings trip-planning startup TripHobo into Next startup circle
Booking.com tells hotels it’s not a zero-sum game
Why you should never consider a travel planning startup