Yahoo Travel has redesigned and added a range of features, including personalization and new mapping tools to the site. It’s also seeking to more deeply integrate travel properties FareChase (its fares and rates “meta search” engine) and Trip Planner (its user-generated content site) into Travel. Flickr is also well represented throughout the redesign. I’m not going to be able to capture every nuance or aspect of the upgrade and all the new features, but I’ll highlight the main ones.
The new home page displays personalized recommendations, as well as more “social features” from Trip Planner. The personalized recommendations, prominently featured as still photographs in a horizontally scrolling menu, are drawn largely from explicit user activity and search history on the site. But there’s also reliance on user location and collaborative filtering (“those who liked Paris . . .”). Another feature of the new personalization is a pull-down menu (“my recommendations”) that changes recommendations depending on the category selected. Categories include Best Deals, Romantic, Beach, Nearby, Art/Architecture, Family, Hiking & Camping and Nightlife. The content of these recommendations come via a new structured tagging feature in Trip Planner.
One of very useful new features is the integration of a collaborative “flight planner” plug-in for Yahoo Messenger (only the desktop client right now). Built on FareChase, the idea here is that you can review, consider and book flights with friends and family in real time.
Another very interesting aspect of the redesign is what Yahoo is calling “remap.” I was told the new capability came out of Yahoo Hack Day and may be rolled out beyond Travel to other Yahoo Maps. Basically “remap” is the layering of additional maps and detail on top of existing Yahoo Maps.
Here are some examples:
You need to scroll to the bottom of the pages for the maps. You can play with the “opacity” of the overlaid image/map using a slider. After you take a look at one or both maps you’ll get the idea of how interesting this is as a way to highlight locations, routes or features of a destination. This also points toward “social maps” (user-generated content) that represent a somewhat different approach than what Google is doing with My Maps.
One of the problems with the travel category, arguably the most mature vertical, is that there’s so much information and so many tools online that it can be overwhelming. In addition, there’s also a lack of confidence that pricing information you’re seeing on any given site represents the best deal or lowest price.
By contrast, Yahoo’s range of tools, meta-search capabilities, user recommendations and personalization features is an impressive package that starts to look and feel pretty complete.