Is Google the new online travel agent alternative?
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
It's hard to imagine a world without Google. What started as a search engine has become an intrinsic part of our lives.
Therefore, it is no surprise that all-knowing and omnipresent Google is all set to dominate the global travel and hospitality sector. We can expect increasing options and better features for hotel search functionalities on the platform very soon. These travel searches will be seamlessly integrated with Google’s price-match promise for the airline industry.
The new OTA
At this point, hotel marketers are focused on optimizing their SEO and pay-per-click strategies to remain competitive. Soon, they may have to make more changes to meet the price match challenge as well.
Google's plan for 2020 and beyond is to become the alternative to established online travel agents (OTAs). It is looking at dramatically increasing the number of hotels it works directly with. Google's focus is to make the hotel searches as relevant as possible and keep users on its page instead of going to the hotel page.
Hotels looking at creating that first impression and gaining exposure must start planning a direct and effective working relationship with Google. They also have to devote a significant amount of time to manage their rates and reviews effectively.
The only downside is that Google does not offer any additional service like an established OTA or hotel would. However, it is also working to simplify Google Ads further and introduce better bidding options in Google Ads. This could end up being more profitable for hotels, who will only have to pay when there's a sale.
With these changes on the horizon, we can expect to see a considerable increase in the use of Google Trips and Google booking options.
Google Travel: A brief look
Google Travel is a streamlined trip-planning platform that blends the services from other related Google platforms to create travel plans for its customers. Along with Google Flights and Google Hotels, it converges other tools like Google Search, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps to help keep all of your trip research in one place and make itineraries available via a simple search.
Google and Amazon
It's not just Google that is making far-reaching changes in this regard. Amazon is of the same mind as well. Its imminent disruption of the online travel industry is a significant threat to the duopoly of Booking Holdings and the Expedia Group, both of which control the industry through their various websites.
An MMGY Global survey showed that travelers' preference for Expedia dipped to 64% in 2018 from 67% in the previous year as Google slowly becomes the preferred booking platform.
While Amazon is just starting, its big-data reservoirs and vast resources will help it reshape the travel and hospitality industries in no time, just like Google. The Seattle-based behemoth already has a massive user base and has collected years of behavioral data it can now utilize to lure customers towards travel and hotel booking.
While both internet giants are a threat, it is Amazon's efficient and effective digital skills that scare most brands. For now, it has just launched flights in India with the help of a local OTA called Cleartrip. But that local action has already had a worldwide effect, and other emerging markets are gearing up for Amazon.
Traditionally, the travel and hospitality industries have been resistant to change. But the landscape is already shifting, and these tech giants with smart e-commerce strategies and deep pockets pose a threat the old standbys can no longer ignore. It is time to act and strategize on whether to take them on as a challenge or an opportunity.
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