The March update to the Facebook app listed a thank you, some bug fixes and an additional City Guides section. There was no fanfare, media blitz or press release circulated, yet this unassuming update could be a massive deal for the travel industry.
To date, Facebook has taken several small steps into the travel industry with its TripAdvisor integration, location ranking system and reviews, as well as integrated maps. And whilst booking was possible, pressing the booking button simply took the user to the hotel’s website.
For some businesses such as the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and the Eliot Hotel in Boston, that’s all changed, as Facebook users are now able to tap a ‘book now’ button in the Facebook app and make reservations directly with the hotel. Restaurants are also getting this treatment, including the likes of the ROKA Charlotte Street restaurant in London, which can now be booked through the Priceline Group’s OpenTable.
So far, users have been gifted with the tools needed to book an Uber, a flight on Icelandair, or to message the Transportation Security Administration using the Facebook Messenger app, but now the app itself has added a new City Guides functionality.
A fantastic example of the new Facebook guides in action comes in the form of the Australian Open. The page shows a 4.5 star user rating and there are new features that allow you to tap and call or message the venue, plan your visit with maps and directions, view photos, read reviews and gather information about upcoming events. Similar features have been added to restaurants and hotels, with updates such as ‘Locals Go’, that lists places popular with those who live in the chosen city.
This update comes six months after the launch of Google’s very own ‘Google Trips’ app which lists ‘things to do’ and provides users with the option to create itineraries for themselves and others. At launch, this did not allow users to book trips within the app itself, however, after this Facebook update, we expect Google to include this functionality in an upcoming update.
City Guides allows Facebook to enter the travel planning side of the industry and more importantly, to stake a claim to the bookings side of proceedings. It is a lot more social than Google Trips and similar in many ways to how TripAdvisor integrates your Facebook friends’ visits into its own destinations and hotel pages.
So with Facebook quietly joining the trip planning and booking game, it means that in the future, Facebook users may do more than simply stalk their exes and share cat memes with their friends. As users start to search for businesses, book tables and make hotel booking decisions via social media, Facebook now joins the likes of TripAdvisor, Google and Foursquare in the travel space.
We will be keeping a close eye on this story as it develops, ensuring our clients are ready to take advantage of any new booking options.