The year has begun with many changes for Google users and clients in the tourist sector. The interest this technological giant is showing in the sector is nothing new, as seen by the launch of Google Flights and Hotel Search that are clearly competing with meta-search engines.
The two moves that have most captured the hotel industry’s attention are the changes in the search engine results page and the appearance of the Smartphone tool: Destinations.
We have commented about the news of Google results page and the increase in clicks on Product Listing Ads in a previous post. This space, dedicated to Google products, shows how Hotel Ads are interspersed with AdWords Ads and organic results. When there is a branding related search, the Hotel Ads take up the right side bar. Therefore, this change is a way of encouraging advertisers to use their paid PLA products such as Hotel Ads or Google Flights.
However, a change that is more directly directed to tourist services is “Google Destinations”, which allows users to compare prices in different destinations, while showing them flight and hotel availability. Destinations is a planner that offers suggestions based on the users search, in direct competition with meta search engines and online travel agencies. A risky bet by Google as it’s up against big players such as Booking.com, Tripadvisor, Trivago or Expedia.
It is created specifically for mobile devices, and groups together Google Flights and Hotel Search utilities, letting the user plan complete trips when searching for a destination. By adding the word “destinations” to a location search, Google will include the flight and hotel prices. The user can then filter the information by specific destinations, dates (exact or flexible), price, or interests. In Googles own words, “instead of browsing through dozens of links and tabs to obtain the information you need, you can just scroll down and peruse the content in one window”.
As well as planning, Google uses the data to offer suggestions. For example, if you add the words “destination + travel” to the Google search bar, the most visited itinerates will appear, based on the visit history of other travellers to these places.
Destinations is following in the trail of Tripadvisor that for some time now has allowed direct bookings though Instant Booking, an option that has recently arrived in Spain. Thanks to Connectivity Premium Partners of TripConnect like Idiso, and thanks to Instant Booking, hoteliers can sell their rooms on the world’s biggest travel website, only paying for completed bookings.
Despite what is seems, Google is insistent that it has no intention of becoming an OTA. At the latest ITB, Oliver Heckmann stated: “We are in the advertising business, which has served us well for 15 years (…) To become a OTA we would be playing to our weakness, the need to provide customer service, this is not our strong point”. In reference to the Destination function that Google launched this week Heckmann stated: “It saves the user from having to make additional searches.”