Without doubt, the on-line travel industry generates a massive annual turnover, with $162 billion in sales in 2012. The travel industry spends vast sums in advertising dollars with Priceline, Expedia, Trip Advisor and the like. As Douglas Quinby, Vice President of Research at PhoCusWright, a travel industry research firm, states “Google is well aware of that and they’d like to steal some of that”.
Google’s recent in-roads into the travel industry are geared towards changes that will ultimately bring them more of this revenue direct. In recent months Google has reached a licencing agreement with Room 77, which gives guests hotel comparisons and the ability to book rooms.
They have developed, tested and refined their hotel accommodation search (Google Hotel Finder) to an extent where it provides detailed information about the accommodation property, including photos, virtual tours, map locations and specific features. Drawing information from the web, including the property’s Google + local pages, this refinement provides a much better search experience for the end user, far superior to the limited details provided by the Online travel agents, who have to date dominated the market.
Google states its travels efforts are to provide “more and more detailed information when people do searches” for hotel bookings and tickets. Google’s search capabilities allow it to collect data on consumer interests and habits, allowing for a more targeted search result, and perhaps making them a more compelling business partner for destination marketers, cruise companies and airlines etc, than an on-line agency.
The major online travel agents can’t afford to move away from Google however, as it is far too beneficial a source of traffic and qualified leads.
Priceline chief executive Darren Huston says he “doesn’t lose sleep pondering what it might do”. He believes that the overheads involved in moving directly into the on-line travel agents territory would be prohibitive to Google making that change. However, Google is finding other ways to reach the end user direct. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (Raddison and Country Inns) has been involved in a pilot that allowed guests to search, shop and pay for hotel stays using Google Hotel Finder, Google Business Photos and Google Wallet payment applications.
More importantly, Google’s partnership with HiRUM Hospitality software, and others, allows guests to book direct with the accommodation property from Google Hotel Finder. For the end user, this means they can take advantage of the extensive information about the property before booking, and then go direct to the property to ensure they get the best deal available. For the accommodation property, it means the property can become visible on Google and alleviates the expensive commissions payable to on-line travel agents for bookings.
By Sally Baumber
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