Google Travel v. Everyone
Over the last few months Google has been re-configuring its travel platform into more of an "all-inclusive" hotel booking engine - taking aim at other behemoths in the Online Travel Agency (OTA) industry such as Expedia, Booking.com etc. While it is still in the early stages of development, it could have huge implications on the future of the travel industry.
This topic was discussed at a previous client meeting, and we briefly touched on some of the key points - these ideas have been expanded upon below:
Ironically, a quick Google search will show the tech giant controls roughly 90% of the global market share for search. Google Travel supplies direct hotel contact via website funnels, phone numbers and messaging without going through any other OTA sites. They can also supply more organic content in the form of reviews, photos/videos and pricing comparisons without any additional cost. Another leg up comes in the form of Google Maps a.k.a. Google My Business, which can strategically position hotels to drive more direct bookings through their brand websites, bypassing OTAs once again.
Not small data
The "big data" term gets thrown around a ton, but its reasonable to believe that Google has accumulated a ton of it. For now, the focus remains on meta-search and advertising, but the foundation is being laid to transition to a full on travel company. With an extensive user base & the ability to use their data to target them, Google is mere steps away from dropping the hammer. They provide the opportunity to ease pain points of booking travel (flights, hotels, rental cars, activities) and one stop editing (Gmail & Google calendar sync + reservation changes), all without having to go through a 3rd party booking agent, and receiving "3rd party service" (which is a real thing).
The future, in many industries, is leaning toward voice; and the travel industry is no different. Currently, the majority of travelers are booking online, with an edge going to mobile platforms, without ever speaking to someone directly at the hotel. As the voice commands become more advanced, there will be a battle for who lands at the top of those requests. Imagine the following scenario: You see a time sensitive travel ad of interest - to act fast, you're activating your smart technology...lets just say, for instance...Google home? "OK Google, book a hotel in Greece." Now, who do you think will handle that search? Who do you think gets that booking? I can promise you it isn't flowing directly to an OTA.
Big picture dominance
At many of the "big name" hotel chains, technology is typically not as up to speed as you'd think. After-all, they are hospitality giants trying to figure out how to streamline evolving tech, versus a tech giant trying to streamline hospitality...which do you think is easier? Technology has been at the forefront of many "disruptions" to other industries, and this will continue through the hospitality sector. As tech companies lean more into the home services industry, it is inevitable for Google Travel to produce a branded "Google Hotel". At that point, we won't be thinking about how Google competes with OTA's, we'll be too busy flying Google Air to the Google Suites on Google island.
What are your thoughts on Google Travel? Will it boom or bust? If/when it booms, will the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Microsoft follow?