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Book Now through Google: An Unholy Alliance or Hotel Windfall?

Lucas Cobb

Our friends at Google are quietly taking aim at becoming a “real OTA.”

Much like TripAdvisor providing its Instant Booking feature to more hotels and shifting slowly away from a pure meta-search model, we now see Google getting into the same game. They are evidently expanding their Hotel Finder in hopes of being a commissioned direct booking partner.

Is this a good move for the search giant? There are three issues to ponder:

1.  I don’t see this as being a windfall for individual hotels. My assumption is that they will be paying an additional commission to Google for this transaction – and that’s on top of what they have to pay Sabre for processing the reservation. Whether this is more or less like a third-party OTA like Booking.com or Expedia will be interesting to see. It probably costs much more to go this way than it does to utilize the Hotel Ads platform for direct referrals.

2.  The vast majority of direct traffic to hotel websites comes from organic searches on Google.

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For example, the way the SERP page is laid out in a generic search, seen above with “New York Plaza,” is a bit of a threat to this important source of visitors. In this scenario, I would have to scroll well down the page to get to any organic results. Any clicks executed in the top section dropped me directly into the Google reservation path with a few options to get straight to the hotel website beyond the initial details page. And, since we see in our research that travelers are predominately more inclined to book direct, this feels like I’m being a bit railroaded.

3.  Google is in a position of power over all other OTAs and meta-search providers. With enough volume through this commissioned service it could probably do with less ad revenue from those entities. Such is not the case for TripAdvisor, who relies much more heavily on such revenue. So, the question of survivability of this service comes down to user acceptance. Focus group of one: I’m not buying it. Despite its simplicity and convenience, I don’t see casual or even experienced travelers accepting this scenario. It’s too opaque. Travelers want to feel a connection with the property and know that they will be a treated with top consideration. This removes those emotional connections and feels more like ordering pizza than booking a luxury hotel stay.

Get more insights on trending travel topics from me here

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