The battle of features in travel search continues with SideStep launching Travel Guides Beta. Most of the content is licensed from Frommer's with additional information courtesy of hotel partners. This launch by SideStep comes just about a month after the company announced its activities search.
Consistent with other travel search sites, Travel Guides is a stand alone section not heavily promoted in flight or hotel search. I think it's smart that SideStep, Kayak, and Mobissimo have kept their travel search engines squeaky clean, but there are natural synergies in stronger integration. As a first step, it's good to see a big 'Find a Room' button for some hotels in the Travel Guides. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find similar booking options for any activities.
The content for Travel Guides is good...of course it is, it's Frommer's. However, there's room for improvement and SideStep definitely has to take advantage of more user friendly, Web 2.0 functionality to beef up the user experience. Here are some other quick notes:
-SideStep is a search engine, but there is no option in Travel Guides to search for Bouchon or Ghost Bar if you're headed to Vegas (for example).
-The map functionality will soon be upgraded to Mapquest's new platform (the sooner the better).
-There's no mashup between the map on a city page (here's New York City) and attractions or hotels as Farechase and Kayak provide.
-Frommer's is great, but where's the user generated content? SideStep should allow users to add their own ratings and reviews. At the very least, a partnership with TravelPost is in order.
In related news, SideStep named John Robison as SVP of Engineering. John was most recently the VP and GM of Yahoo's Premium Services Infrastructure, "playing an integral role in the development and support of Yahoo!'s technology and business infrastructure."