By Robin Wauters
Microsoft (MSFT) Thursday morning announced that it is rolling out Bing Travel, one of the verticals it’s focusing much of its attention on when it comes to the recently unveiled “decision engine” the company set out to conquer market share from Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) Search. Bing Travel, as we mentioned when we posted the first screenshots based on the Kumo preview, combines a lot of the airfare and hotel reservation tools from Microsoft’s 2008 acquisition of Farecast with news and other editorial content from MSN Travel (in fact, travel.msn.com already redirects to the new search engine).
Bing Travel is one of the initiatives that Microsoft is launching to differentiate Bing from traditional search engines which mostly provide information and links instead of tools that help visitors make more informed decision quicker. Customers will be able to take advantage of tools and features like Price Predictor (designed to forecast how airfare prices are going to evolve), Rate Indicator (set up to highlight the best hotel deals), but also Travel Deals, Comparison Flight & Hotel Search, and Fare Alerts.
According to Redmond, 45 percent of people use a search engine to select a flight or hotel. Out of those, a survey by Bing Travel pointed out that 52 percent of potential travelers search three or more sites before booking their airfare, and 42 percent of travelers spend between one and four weeks weighing their travel options (17 percent even spend more than one month). Microsoft wants to reduce that time by centralizing comprehensive results based on searches for travel information in one place.
We’ll take Bing Travel for spin and post a detailed post about our findings soon, but for now do tell us what your first impression of Bing’s Travel section is in comments.