City Tours is a new addition to Google Labs that puts Google squarely in the tourism business: Give it a city name, and Google not only suggests sites to see, but it also maps out a multi-day itinerary and proposes a minute-by-minute travel schedule for you to follow.
And what’s really impressive is that City Tours doesn’t only cover the standard travel hot spots like New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. You’ve probably never heard of Kennewick, Washington, but Google has a three-day tour in mind if you ever want to visit my neck of the woods.
Whoa. That noise you hear is the sound of tour guides across the U.S. updating their resumés and scanning the classifieds for a new career.
Okay, not so fast. I’m getting ahead of things here.
In reality, City Tours is very much a labs project at this point with plenty of room for growth and improvement. After the “wow” factor wears off, you’ll notice that the Kennewick tour above suggests that I walk from sight to sight … even though two of those walks are estimated at 83 and 88 minutes. On day two of the itinerary, the city tour includes a 148-minute walk. No thanks. Walking tours may work well in San Francisco or New York, but not so much out here in Small Town, USA.
Despite that problem, City Tours is a fun tool with a lot of potential. You can give it specific dates and add or remove sights. Imagine Google pulling in the public transit information that it already has for many cities. Imagine it pulling in event listings like concerts and sports. Imagine local businesses being able to write their own suggested city tours that include a stop at the business’s own location, and being able to embed those tour maps on their web sites.
This seems like an interesting experiment to watch.
(via Steve Rubel)