What to expect with Google's new positioning in travel?
Launched earlier in May, Google Trips puts merges flights, hotels, packages, home-rentals, car rentals, ridesharing, cruises, and experiences search in one single, übermensch ecosystem, combining the Google Trips app, Google Flights, and Google Hotels under one landing page. And, with Google getting bigger on the travel landscape, OTAs continue diversifying the risks: Booking.com (with Q1-2019 revenue down by 3%, don't forget), especially, alluded to new possible acquisition and it is rumored to announce its new stand-alone tours & attractions program any day now. My long-view on the topic is that Google is going to cover the whole traveler's journey, while OTAs will move more and more to B2B, possibly even SaaS, landscapes. How will these changes impact hotels? What's your take?
A great question to pose and one that I will take a slightly different view on. Yes, it is obvious that Google is moving deeper into the travel space, but let's not forget their track record of monetizing consumer-led products and services is not exactly stellar. They will have to battle big-brother concerns as well as address the loyalty/rewards landscape, however, their 75% mobile OS penetration will help put their travel experience in nearly every pocket.
Amazon and Alibaba however, are the larger tech titans that I frankly have my eye on. For Amazon, their one-click checkout and superior recommendation engines are ripe for quick commoditization of the brands, as well as their attribute-based buying experience, strong existing capabilities to cater to small business owners (think boutique hotels and Airbnb), leading data capabilities and voice search through Alexa, and their ready-made loyalty rewards marketplace.
All this means Amazon has a better immediate capability to directly sell rooms and experiences. Furthermore, Amazon enjoys a better-perceived consumer position and the financial means to leverage it, whereas Alibaba owns the online shopping and significant travel services in China and beyond. Watch this space.