Google's Travel Deal Cleared for Takeoff

It is a high-flying time to be in the online travel business. Shares of Priceline stock have more than doubled this year, TravelZoo is soaring, and Expedia just announced plans to split itself into two companies, traditionally catnip to investors.

Into the dot-com travel mix steps Google.  The search giant just got Justice Department approval to buy ITA, which, for $700 million gives Google users access to lots of travel information.  As if anybody made a flight or hotel reservation from anywhere other than a computer these days, consider it now officially everywhere.

But the Google deal doesn't come without strings. Google must, according to the Justice Department, make sure that ITA's data is also available to competitors, like Microsoft's Bing search engine. Given the dominance that Google has in the search category, you'd figure Larry Page and company didn't sweat this one too much.

Knowing Google's search reach, you can soon expect to make travel arrangements from a smart phone or tablet as smoothly as you do from your laptop. It's another sign that online travel is hot:  Not just stock prices rising, but the industry giant deciding that, even with conditions attached, it has to be involved.

Scott should have bought Priceline stock long ago.  He's on Twitter:   @scottbudman
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