What to expect with Google's new positioning in travel?
— 14 experts shared their view
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?
Assistant Professor at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne
Google's recent move should not be a surprise for any tourism professionals. Google has continuously optimized its travel-related products. The question was never if but how will Google further disrupt the travel ecosystem.
Google simply understands travelers better. Google flight let travelers filter by the three major airline alliance programs because most travelers do not care which airline they fly with but want to ensure they can collect miles. Google flights also allow travelers to select stop-over airports, while most airlines' algorithms cannot. The combination of customer driven and customer centric mentalities will out beat most travel players.
For hoteliers, the recent change in Google Travel is another gatekeeper demanding compensation in exchange for access to customers. Google already has comprehensive hotel profiles comparable to most hotel websites, and these hotel profiles are easily accessible on Google search results and Google maps. The implication is that the traffic to brand.com may decrease. Furthermore, customers reluctant to share credit card information may adopt Google Pay to settle the payment. Before customers arrive at the hotel, they may use Google Questions & Answers to communicate with hoteliers, travelers, and local guides. After customers' stay, they may share their reviews and photos on Google platforms. The conclusion is that Google travels along with travelers throughout the journey.
What's next for hoteliers? Definitely, hoteliers need to constantly monitor Google's move. Hotel brands should help their franchisees to understand the Google ecosystem, and optimize hotel performance by working with Google. Yet, only focusing on Google or OTAs is not enough. Hotel brands and marketing professionals need to work on demand generation, or at the top of the marketing funnel. Why do people travel? What attracts travelers to this destination? What value propositions could best serve the travel personas? These levels of marketing intelligence and local insights are something Google can't address. At least, not yet.