New tools set to make travel booking easier amid tourism technology boom

Expedia, one of the biggest names in online travel, has revealed two new features this week that hint at the future of travel booking.

The firm, which also owns brands such as and TripAdvisor, rolled out a major upgrade to its European mobile booking systems, allowing travelers to book on smartphones without downloading an app.

The new mobile-optimized website allows Europe-based travelers to search for hotels, flights, car rentals or activities in the same manner that US customers can.

This week also saw the launch of a major overhaul to Trip Companion, Expedia's Facebook application.

Released last year, the new version has several upgraded features such as the ability to build a printable itinerary, a new mapping functionality and a share feature, which allows users to gather feedback from their social networks.

The new release could help improve Trip Companion's reputation on Facebook - although the company says 150 users sign up every day, reviews by some users of the old version suggest not everyone has been impressed, with comments saying "spams the heck out of your wall" and "was expecting so much more from this app."

Expedia is planning a major push into mobile and social media this year, with travel technology website Tnooz reporting that the company will offer more features in the first half of 2011 than in the past five years.

As competition with other travel agents and airlines, who are getting increasingly more savvy at selling their own product online, hots up, it's not surprising that Expedia isn't the only one searching for new ways to take customers' bookings.

At last week's ITB Berlin show, the predicted boom in mobile booking and use of social media for travel services dominated much of the discussion, with analyst IPK International predicting that "social media and mobile technology will dramatically change the face of the tourism industry."

Google revealed that 10 percent of European searches on travel were made using mobile devices, something which it said proved that the use of mobile devices in travel has hit a "critical mass." (mobile version)