Where Google goes, people follow. So consider Google’s excursion into the travel industry. The move seems a logical part of the company’s strategy to challenge established markets; the recent launch of Google+ to take on the social media behemoth Facebook, Google Offers encroaching on Groupon’s territory — the track record is definitely there. And then there is Google Hotel Finder, essentially a sophisticated, fully functional online travel agency. The only thing it needs to become a full-scale online travel agency (OTA) is to add a “book-it” button (for now the site leaves final bookings up to the likes of Kayak, Priceline, and Expedia et al). Book-it buttons aside, Google has been on a “gobble” in recent years. Its new Hotel Finder joins an expanding list of travel-focused services like Google Flights and Google Plus, along with a host of other acquisitions — most recently foodie favorite Zagat for $25 million — to make the search engine (and the anything and everything portal to the web), a formidable player in the online travel industry. In 2010 in the US alone, the hotel industry generated roughly $120 billion, so I really don’t see Google’s foray as simply an experiment. Google is out to generate some serious profits: OTAs are sophisticated search engines and that is precisely what Google does best. Get the full story at GigaOM