Google Adds Instant Booking

Search engine giant rolls out direct booking, now an OTA By: Michelle Juergen
Google has added a hotel booking tool. // © 2015 IStock
Google has added a hotel booking tool. // © 2015 IStock

The Details

Google Hotel Finder

Google is rolling out instant booking on its Hotel Finder page, allowing users to book a room directly through the search engine.

Why It Matters:
It’s yet to be seen whether Google joining the OTA game will be a boon or a bust for the tech giant, but its foray into direct booking is sure to shake things up. For ages, the search engine has offered hotel metasearch, but it had passed off consumers to hotel websites or travel agencies for transactions. This new move runs somewhat in opposition to that former business partnership, and if Hotel Finder’s instant booking takes with consumers, it could mean bad news for other OTAs. But much like TripAdvisor, which has slowly introduced its Instant Booking feature throughout the year, Google’s big challenge will be to get major hotels and property groups to participate, as well as to gain user acceptance. Once Hotel Finder’s commission plan becomes clearer, agents will have to decide whether to jump onboard or take to the virtual streets in protest.

Fast Facts:
- Clicking on the option to book directly with a hotel formerly took customers to that company’s website to finish the transaction. Now, users are sent to a Google booking page.

- reports that so far, no major U.S. hotel chains appear to be participating in Google’s new rollout — only independents.

- The new system may affect Google’s advertising relationships with OTAs: Expedia, Inc. and Priceline Group contribute about 5 percent of Google advertising income, according to eMarketer and Mark Mahaney, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

- Sabre Hospitality Solutions is in beta testing with Google on a new commission-based (not a pay-per-click) model for letting hotels receive bookings via visitors using organic search in Google search and Maps, according to Tnooz. If Sabre markets Google’s instant booking product, some of the 20,000 independent hotels that use its central reservation system may sign up.

What They Are Saying:
“Google is in a position of power over all other OTAs and meta-search providers,” said Lucas Cobb, vice president of integrated planning for MMGY Global, in a company blog. “With enough volume through this commissioned service, it could probably do with less ad revenue from those entities. … 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.”