Facebook’s City Guides has gone live for a select number of users on March 2nd. What does it do, and who does it affect? To start with, it allows some hotels to display a ‘Book Now’ button directly in the interface, leading straight to the hotel website.

City Guides attempts to help users plan trips more easily. The key part for hoteliers is that City Guides allows users to book some hotels and restaurants, as well as easily message or call others.

City Guides is in many ways a direct challenge to Google Trips. City Guides is a trip-planning feature in much the same way Trips is. However, key differences exist.

Google Trips doesn’t offer booking features. Instead, it automatically plans a day (or a few days) for you in a new city. It offers suggested activities, ranging from museums to food.

It’s a trip planner and a travel guide in one, including emergency information, transport information, and more.

Google Trips can access any hotel or flight reservations from your gmail account and customize offers from there. For many, that is a particularly appealing feature (depending on how often you like to be reminded of Google’s vast knowledge base).

Trips is a single, complete app. City Guides, on the other hand, is an otherwise-slick feature that might be buried in Facebook’s complicated interface. That’s another point in Trips’ favour.

Facebook’s City Guide isn’t quite as fully realized yet. It’s “a redesigned surface on city Pages that showcases information [which]…already exists on Facebook,” according to a Facebook spokesperson.

However, it has some social features that Trips doesn’t offer:

  • City Guide shows you where your Facebook ‘friends’ have been and ‘liked’, and their ratings if they’ve left a review.
  • It also offers a list of ‘Places the Locals Go’, along with what the locals thought of those places.

City Guides is currently only available to a limited number of users, so Facebook may still be working on updates to the interface.

The bottom line: both Trips and City Guide are an appealing repackaging of information Google and Facebook already offer, but Trips is so far slightly ahead of the game.

Which hotels can guests book directly from City Guides? Can they book my hotel?

The process of allowing guests to book your hotel from City Guides couldn’t be easier. The difference comes from the hotel’s business page on Facebook.

If a hotel has a Book Now button on their Facebook page (an easy, 2 minute set up), City Guides offers a one-click redirect to a hotel’s own website for a direct booking.

It’s the same button many hotels already have on your page, but when City Guides features it, the button is likely to be seen by a more diverse, larger audience.

For hotels with a different Call to Action on their business page, City Guides offers a tap-to-call feature, or opens a chat box.

What call to action does your hotel offer on Facebook? Will the City Guides update change the button you’ve selected?

City Guides so far isn’t a game changer in the distribution game, but it is a compelling reason to get your hotel’s Facebook page fully up to date and optimized with important information and images. What do you think?