Google has upgraded the Hotel Finder travel search feature, adding an option to help users filter hotels by how close they want to be to a place when looking for a place to stay.
Launched last July to help travelers narrow their options for hotel stays, Hotel Finder surfaces hotels in densely populated cities by selecting an initial shape for users based on what's most popular.
At launch, users could refine their hotel search by cost per night, hotel class and user rating.
The latest filter, Hotels by Travel Time, lets users enter a city landmark in the search box to see hotels within 30 minutes of that landmark's location by public transit. Users may also refine hotel search by those places listed in popular areas or those selected.
Google used the example of the Empire State Building, and I played along to see:
I circled the maximum travel time option, which is cool because you can dial it down in 5 minute increments, to 25, 20, 10 and 5 minutes travel time by public transit or on foot if you prefer to walk.
As you dial the travel time up or down, the map will update automatically to show a new spotlighted area and the nearby hotels. Users may also just drag the red pin they see on the map to find hotels near other landmarks.
Or refine search by popular locations or the area:
And here is what happens when you click on the location to expand your search area:
Search Engine Land has some additional practical use cases for the hotels by travel time feature.
We'll throw out one more: Hotels within 15 minutes of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France:
Google warns that both the Hotel Finder and the new travel time tool are experimental. Moreover, filtering by transit time is only available in cities where Google partnered with local transit agencies to integrate their data into Google Maps.
This is clearly a useful tool for travelers within dense, urban areas. Just as with Street View, Google is starting narrow and perfecting the tool before it branches out to rural and additional international regions.
Happy hotel hunting!