Hyatt just launched their new hotel finder application with Microsoft Virtual Earth. The application is accessible from their home page by searching for Hyatt hotel locations around the world. Now, this is in NO WAY anything but a coincidence that one of the March, 2009 Virtual Earth web casts is focused on hospitality, so now is as good a time as any to drop a shameless reference to it (more on that in a future post).
So, in true Hyatt form, the user interface has some great aesthetics with their interface around and atop the map. The results from the home page are returned with Hyatt logos and colored circles identifying the center point of the hotel on the map. Those colors aren’t be accident – they correspond to the different brands Hyatt owns under their parent company. It’s fine, little touches like this that make such a difference. The results on the map correspond with a list under the map. Each of the results provide a short version of hotel information, but links off to the respective hotels’ web page (each hotel gets their own page); and, you can sort your results by distance (default), brand or city.
Now, if you click on one of the icons on the map, you get an extended DIV on the map which is just SWEET. The DIV is robust and includes functionality for going to the respective hotel home page, a photo gallery of the hotel, a virtual tour and directions to the hotel (not yet in Virtual Earth, but I’m sure it’s slated for a future update). Also, and most importantly, a link to “check rates and availability.” I mean let’s face it, Hyatt is not in the business of building a showcase for me to write about, right? They want to book hotel rooms! Virtual Earth provides a great interface with its road maps, high resolution imagery and arguably, most important the Bird’s Eye photography. I mean, you can see the Hyatt logo on the hotel on most of the photos. And, the ability to rotate the photos makes for a great user experience so once they’ve looked at the hotel from all angles they can just book it right from the map. It keeps a visual of the hotel fresh in their mind and with Bird’s Eye as they happily book their hotel room.