New application for group trip planning launched

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The Independent Online

A social media company last week unveiled a travel planning service that allows friends or colleagues to plan trips together in real time using Google Wave.

Travel WithMe, which is based on Google's free collaboration service Wave, is aimed at travelers who like to research and plan itineraries before setting off.

The service combines Google Wave's communication facilities with Google Maps and adds content provided by Lonely Planet and Expedia to allow groups to suggest, discuss and vote in order to build their itinerary.

A partner product, Hostel WithMe, pulls content from Hostelworld.com for those looking for budget accommodation.

Columbus Internet, the Berlin-based agency behind the product, claims that it is "the world's first real-time collaborative accommodation booking application".

On installing the application to Google Wave, users are presented with a Google Maps interface that allows straightforward navigation to a destination.

Travel WithMe overlays data from Expedia and Lonely Planet to allow travelers to view and discuss each individual attraction and accommodation option (StreetView is also an option), before adding them to a shared Trip Planner.

By giving the application visiting dates, attractions can be added to the daily itinerary planner and hotels can be added separately for each evening.

Offline users that miss the process can contribute to the discussion when they log in and see a "playback" of actions from each user.

The addition of a full screen option is a useful touch from the developers, as is the ability to click and book both flights and hotels using data already given to the application, using Kayak and Rucksack.com (which is operated by Columbus Internet).

According to developers, the site can draw upon 15,000 attractions from Lonely Planet, 123,000 hotels from Expedia and over 24,000 hostels from Hostelworld.com.

Advanced, location-based social media tools are a powerful way for travelers to plan trips - and for brands to connect with them whilst they do it.

On May 20, global hotel chain InterContinental announced that it had partnered with location-based social network Gowalla to deliver advertisements to Priority Club members that "check-in" to its hotel locations on their mobile device.

However, the service was criticized by some for failing to offer a tangible reward for checking in, as many properties do using Gowalla's competitor Foursquare.

http://www.columbus-internet.com
http://www.ichotelsgroup.com

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