No need to panic just yet - it's only a test, of course - but Google has quietly built a search engine for tours and activities.
Touring Bird is a mobile app created within the Area 120 internal incubator - a division at Google that gives teams the chance to dream up and build proof of concepts for products outside of its existing industry vertical groups.
Like other products coming out of Area 120, such as the recent Yondo corporate travel incentives platform, Touring Bird is just a project name and there is no strategic imperative to launch the product fully to market.
That said, Touring Bird is getting those that have seen and played with it rather excited.
Metasearch with a twist
The app ("Your guide to the best Paris experiences") is currently, in its test phase, focused solely on providing destination information and details about attractions in the French capital of Paris.
Users can browse through the city's top sights (Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Disneyland, etc), see tips about other things to do and locate recommendations for the city based on traveler types, such as Instagrammers, foodies and history buffs.
Content aside (there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of city guides in the app store with similar services), it's the shopping and buying element to the app that arguably will hold the most interest for general Google watchers and, in particular, those that participate in the growing tours and activities sector.
Take the city's (and one of the world's) most popular attraction: the Eiffel Tower.
If a user selects the product, they are taken through to a page which, again, includes tips and information but also a ticket reservation section.
Here they are presented with a range of options from online travel agencies such as a Viator or GetYourGuide, using the APIs that are provided by each intermediary.
But here's the apparent clever bit, built using what is said to be machine learning to understand what else is behind a product, as the app is effectively "unbundling" the content that is usually provided by an OTA.
Similar to other sectors of the industry, such as airline tickets, on big attractions the OTAs draw a range of products for a specific attraction together to create a specific deal.
Tours and activities comes of age
In the case of the Eiffel Tower, this might include "skip-the-line" access, second floor-only entry, etc.
Touring Bird has stripped away the different elements so that a user can select which part they want, or build their own package.
As different parts are added or subtracted the final buying point changes, based on the price.
So, a user might select second floor access from Viator but when they add skip-the-line to the deal the seller switches to GetYourGuide.
Other elements that can be added might be a visit in the attraction's restaurant.
Another factor includes a virtual shopping cart element to the app, such as adding a visit to The Louvre museum in the same search, which automatically builds a product list for the user on the OTA's site ahead of allowing them to click to make a book for everything in one transaction.
Other intermediaries being used to supply product include Musement and Tiqets.
Whilst other services have created metasearch-type tools for tours and activities (some will recall early startups such as PocketVillage and Flextrip from years gone by), it is the unbundling element within the app that is said to be "absolutely unique" to the sector, according to a source.
Putting to one side the Area 120 testing philosophy, such a tool could easily be added in time to the existing Google Trips app.
Touring Bird already signals that a desktop version is being created and it is understood the proof of concept could be extended to include other cities in due course, following the Paris experimental phase.
Another angle where the app is getting people excited is how, over time, it could open up to take direct feeds from suppliers, in true metasearch fashion putting a range of products up against one another.
Touring Bird is expected to be unveiled to a group of the existing Local Guides participants in Paris, France, this week.
A Google official says: "One of the many projects that we’re working on within Area 120 is Touring Bird, which helps travelers discover, compare and book tours and activities in Paris.
"Like all other projects within Area 120, it’s a very early experiment so there aren’t many details to share right now."
Executive Interview: Richard Holden
Google's vice president of product management is appearing at Phocuswright Europe 2018 in Amsterdam. More details HERE