By Markus Busch While still limited in scope and at times sluggish and buggy, the major pieces of Google Hotel Finder are in place and look very promising - for both the consumer and hotels. Travelers will love the simplicity and speed with which you can select, compare and book hotels without ever having to leave the page, except for the final booking. No ads or affiliate links that get in your way - just relevant hotels. Google Hotel Finder is so simple, it’s brilliant. For the hotel industry, Google Hotel Finder has the potential to become a new level playing field where hotels can compete with online travel agents and have an equal chance to succeed in securing the final booking. A powerful catalyst for driving direct bookings via your hotel website. Hotel destination search how it was meant to be Prior to Google Places, if you searched for “hotels in New York” on Google, your search result page included not a single link to a hotel website, just links to SEO/AdWords savvy online travel agents and their affiliates. With the introduction of the Google Places/Maps combo last year, that picture has changed only slightly, in that you now get for the same search first ten SEO/AdWords savvy hotels listed in New York, followed by the same old mix of Expedia/TripAdvisor/Booking.com mix of search results. Enter Google Hotel Finder, type in the city and your travel dates, and all you get is a list of hotels, nothing but highly relevant hotels. The initial list features hotels with an image, the hotel name and a short description, the hotel’s star and user rating, as well as a price per night, and how that price compares to its historical average (read: am I getting a deal or not). Each hotel listing can be easily expanded with one click, giving you a slick overview of the hotel with more and enlarged images (slide show), the latest reviews, the full hotel address including phone number, and yes, a direct link to the hotel’s own website. As you flip through the hotel listings, you can add the hotels you like to a handy shortlist to keep track of the ones you would like to compare and review later. And once you’re ready to book, each hotel listing includes a blue “Book” button, which in Kayak-fashion presents you with a list of online travel agents the hotel can be booked and at what price, as well as yet another direct link to the hotel’s own website. A simple navigation menu on the left side along the hotel list allows you to refine your hotel search by: - Location: Simply draw your location on a map to only view hotels in your selected area; - Dates: Enter your arrival and departure dates to only see hotels with availability during that period; - Price: Define your price per night range, or use the deal finder to list only hotels that are offering deals that anywhere from 10% to 50% less than the hotels historical average rate; - Hotel class & User rating: Select your preferred hotel class from one to five stars, and if you would like to see only hotels that have reviews. Everything you need - and not more - to select your perfect hotel. Clearly, travelers will love Google’s Hotel Finder. Questions, questions, and more questions From a hotel marketers point of view, the Google Hotel Finder experiment brings up many questions. Like, how do hotels get listed on Google Hotel Finder? Or more specific, what databases are accessed via Google/ITA technology to populate the hotel listings? Most likely it is CRS content provided directly by hotel representation companies like Sabre Hospitality, Utell and the likes, or Pegasus ODD. Will there be an option for hotels without CRS representation to get listed on Google Hotel Finder? And how do hotels get ranked on Google Hotel Finder? Currently the result page is static, with the same hotels getting the top position on the list. Will that change into a randomly sorted list for the final product? Where does the static content for the hotel listings like hotel descriptions and images come from? And how can hotels update that information? What role does Google Places for Business play when it comes to updating a hotels business information on Google Hotel Finder? And for the Google AdWords listings on the “Book” button, will they only list hotel AdWords campaigns that are delivered via a CRS connection, or can independent hotels directly manage their AdWords listings? Many more questions come to mind. Time to turn to Google for some answers. Do you have questions on Google Hotel Finder you would like to see answered? Send them to editor 'at' hotelmarketing.com. We will collect and present them to Google and see if we can get some more facts on what’s to get shaped as a potentially major source for direct hotel bookings. Markus Busch is the Editor/Publisher of Hotelmarketing.com and can be reached at markus.busch 'at' hotelmarketing.com. Read also "Google launches Google Hotel Finder"