More News on the Google Travel Front?

I’m going to virtual Disney World!

No, I’m not talking about Disney World in Second Life… though it wouldn’t surprise me if such a thing existed. I’m referring to the new 3D Disney World Experience offered in Google Earth, launched June 5.

Virtual visitors can basically tour the whole Disney theme park in Google Earth, even going so far as seeing inside rides. The site is part of a big online advertising push by Disney to draw real vacationers to the real destination.

It seems to me that this is just the kind of thing that Google could develop for its long-rumored travel offering. Imagine taking a 3D Google Earth tour of a sponsored destination such as Paris’ Le Marais district, all the while, seeing ads for hotels in that area, restaurants, and the like. Such a site would have lots of appeal for travel enthusiasts and a ton more appeal for marketers and tourism boards.

The drawback is that developing such an experience takes a while. It took about a year for the Disney project to be completed.

Still, I think 3D Disney gives us a view into the kind of experience Google could and, likely, will offer by mashing up its travel marketing division with maps, search and other Google services.

The project also gives us a window into the evolution of Google’s advertising products. This is a clear branded advertising play with a direct marketing component: way more advanced than a text ad on a Google search. I’m interested to see whether Google can scale this kind of thing.

Also, given the price of airline tickets and gas, I’m also simply interested in whether it’s possible to “travel” from my computer chair.