Online maps will provide increasing levels of location intelligence as consumers get used to expecting to see more information as they research their trips.
That was the message from Vikas Arora, Bing Maps regional manager for consumer and communications sector, who said it is becoming a strategic decision for travel firms to integrate maps into their web offering.
He said the industry should expect increasing levels of sophistication in how information is presented and the way it is sourced, including greater use of crowdsourcing.
This will not only help to increase the volume of content but also the accuracy as mapping firms continue to perfect their geo-coding capabilities to properly locate hotels and other travel product.
“Just providing maps is not enough,” Arora told the Travel Technology Initiative innovation summit on day one of WTM.
He singled our Visit Brighton for its use of Photosynth on its website which takes photographs of locations and stitches them together to create a 3D view of a location.
Arora said increasingly maps will provide information that is personalised to each user. “They key is how that information is presented,” he said.
A map may be able to link the user to detailed information about a hotel, for instance, such as how many rooms it has available or whether it has a restaurant or children’s facilities.
“It is a challenge for travel companies to pull in this information. Information now holds currency for a particular company.
“We are now in this age of content generation, reaching out to consumers, crowdsourcing information.
“Now we have mappers all over the world contributing to their platforms. You are seeing players add more and more information.
“Not only do I want to get to, say, the O2 but I want to know what I can do when I get there, what the best seat in the house is and click on the site and see the view from it.
“This leads us more towards social media. It gives travel companies a great opportunity to be different.
“People are listening, so social media is very important. People are willing to share information. Augmented reality and gaming are more opportunities to reach out.”
Arora said due to the huge amount of investment needed in mapping technology the number of players providing platforms has consolidated down in recent years.
But he said platforms had become a lot more flexible and scalable opening the way towards becoming a far more personalised experience for the user as multiple data sources are integrated.
Mobile promises travel firms a great opportunity to create new business ideas, added Arora, with location specific advertising possible and a channel to generate more relevant and therefore more valuable information.