Once upon a time there were two contenders: Hotel Website and OTA. And gradually, comes about a twist as somebody named Google Joins the Hotel Bookings Arena…
I’m sure in your childhood, the famous fable of “Two Cats And A Monkey” was quite often repeated to you for gaining some moral lesson. And it was more like, “When brothers fight to death, a stranger inherits their property.”
While this might not be the exact scenario here, the tussle is somewhat the same, at least!
If this analogy sounds a bit too far-fetched, keep it simple by imagining a 3-player game! We shall find out soon about the last man standing!
So, before we start rolling the dice, let us clarify at the very outset: Google Hotels is the “Elephant” in the Room (ahem, ahem!)
Ask yourself this: “What brings more bookings for my hotel currently- direct or intermediaries?”
The friction between various sources for securing bookings is not really unknown. For hotels, primary competing sources are intermediaries such as the OTAs.
In fact, it brings to mind the popular tug-of-war between the hotel websites (for direct bookings) and OTAs (charging commission). However, it looks as if there’s a new contender that has recently joined the battlefield- the advent of Google Hotels (*drumroll, please*)
So, how does the introduction of this change the booking journey of travelers? Who stands to benefit? And how does this help the hoteliers?
Sorry for bombarding you with too many questions while you just started to get a bit comfy…Oops!
Hence before delving deeper into the overall position as Google joins the hotel bookings battle amidst other rivals, let us first touch a bit upon this feature as a whole from the perspective of the travelers.
What is Google Hotels? | How Do Google Hotels Work?
After the success of its Google Flights and Google Trips, Google has now launched its new feature-a new hotel search and booking site under the name ‘Google Hotels’ (March 2019). This feature is beneficial in providing all the functionality and tools used by its competitors like Expedia, Kayak, and Booking.com. Thus it provides the users the convenience of obtaining all the travel-related information on a single platform, right from the location of the accommodation to the reviews received. Sounds interesting, isn’t it?
For instance, imagine yourself traveling to a particular destination, let’s say, “New York.” If you’re a newbie to this entire booking procedure, your first instinct would be to simply type it out in Google search box by using words like “hotels in new york city.” In fact, it has been deemed that 81% of travelers prefer to search on Google for their queries and travel inspiration. While the search engine would produce results with the OTA sites like Booking.com ranking higher, you will also see a Google booking platform beyond these advertisements. Looking more like a box, this will present a list of all the available accommodation options along with other useful information like ranking, price details, ratings, features and reviews for properties (on the left) while on the right side, there is a view of the areas on Google Maps along with pins indicating the prices (see the gif below)
This feature allows one to narrow down their search by clicking on a pin on Maps in a particular area while looking to book hotels on Google. By doing so, you will be able to have a larger overview of a particular property-photographs, reviews, amenities, location summary, etc. Not just that, but it also helps to redirect one to the hotel website. Again, it displays the prices for that particular property from various sources like the OTAs as well as the direct price quoted by the property itself. This seems almost like a one-stop solution available under a single roof and as a process, seems a little less time-consuming, thereby helping a user book an experience flawlessly.
With the ease of navigation and filter options, you can always base your search on a particular feature and obtain as much information as possible based on that input.
“You can filter by amenities such as “kid-friendly”, “pool”, “fitness center” and many more, selecting as many filters as you wish. Basically, if you only want hotels that offer free breakfast, a pool, and a fitness center, which are also kid-friendly – you can set that out from the very beginning to avoid wasted time.”
All in all, it is true that you can now almost “Book Hotels On Google”
While all of this sounds easy, interesting and convenient as Google joins the hotel bookings war, ever wondered what is on the other side? If this platform can offer everything under a single roof, does that mean that it’s going to have the upper hand in the bookings battle between the hotel websites (Player 1) and the OTAs (Player 2)? Or will it create opportunities for both? Or is it going to dissolve everything and emerge out altogether as the next-era ultimate solution for travelers? These are the questions that intrigue us all as King Google enters the hotel-distribution game (Player 3)
Wait! Did Google Just Enter the Hotel Bookings Biz?
Quite simply, the answer would be yes:)
Let us first discuss the impact of Google Hotels on the whole, especially on both sides: traffic on hotel websites and the OTAs
Benefits Of Using Google Hotels (Ads) For Hotels
○ Improves hotel’s content visibility and provides more ways for travelers to get in touch with hotels for direct booking.
○ Allows the guests to reach out to you as frictionlessly as possibly by providing them with the necessary contact information.
○ Helps hotels reduce dependency on the OTAs and save on commission.
So, We Assume This is How Hotels Could Win The Direct Booking War?
On the surface, it might seem as if the properties are getting increasingly benefited from this new solution as Google joins the hotel bookings fight. It aims to encourage the travel shoppers to check out the hotel website for a particular property, thereby increasing the traffic. Not only this, but it also acts more like a GoogleMyBusiness account for the hotels by giving a good overview of all the information that can come in handy, allowing the hoteliers to show their actual prices alongside the ones offered by the OTAs.
In other words, Google Hotels does help in providing the properties more control to influence a traveler’s booking decision. Once you get your hotel(s) on Google, you can see the change. Besides providing a user with website information for a property, it also provides them the means to be able to call or text the property on a particular number or email address; the means by which they can get in touch with the hotels, bypassing the intermediaries. In a way, Google Hotel Ads are changing the direct booking game for independent hotels. This allows hoteliers to handle bookings directly through their hotel channel manager. With Google Hotel Ads, you can gain back your direct bookings, at least to a considerable extent. And do not sweat over the surge in bookings too. Why? With new hotel software solutions and better marketing tools, hoteliers will be better able to handle the booking outpour.
“An estimated 4.5 billion searches are made per day on Google, accounting for 77% of the world’s total search traffic”
A Few Challenges With This Opportunity For The Hoteliers
Increase your hotel’s visibility on Google Hotel Ads to boost your direct bookings & hotel business
But things are not as smooth as they appear to be. Even though none of the above is illusionary or misleading (Google joins the hotel bookings and stuff), everything comes with a price, and this we mean in a purely financial sense. To appear on Google Hotels, properties must preferably spend on Google Hotel Ads. It’s getting even more challenging nowadays to be visible in organic search results for hotel category searches (eg. hotels in New York). Hence hospitality brands are now compelled to buy Google Hotel Ads to be visible anywhere “above the fold.” In a way, Google Hotel Ads are changing the direct booking game for independent hotels.
1. Technical Expertise: One of the biggest hurdles to face here is the fact that for your pricing to reflect on Google Hotels, the process is slightly lengthier, comprising at least four-steps and demands a lot of technical expertise which is clearly not the way for the smaller accommodations. Again, it cannot really be compared with a task as easy as setting up and maintaining your Google My Business listing. No, this is way beyond that!
2. Vying for attention along with the OTAs: Again, clicking on that hotel website button might seem like a lost opportunity amidst the far more appealing options and call-to-action buttons. Google helps narrow down your search results by giving out a handful of ways to book a property by means of the room display through eye-catching photos, reduced rate messaging, hotel information tabs and of course, the rates provided by the nearby competitors. This is what impacts the direct booking process for hotels. You might just go back to square one by getting yourself lost amidst the competitor prices, forgetting the little brand “website” button altogether in the process. Hence managing and redirecting the users to check out the website is quite an effort and not as easy as it sounds. Surely, all this is responsible for mitigating the direct booking benefits to a great extent.
What Impact Does It Have On The OTAs?
We‘re still in the grey zone when it comes to answering this question. It is true that OTAs are on the gaining side by charging independent and smaller properties a commission for securing bookings. But the emergence of Google Hotels is not entirely a-bed-filled-with-roses kind of thing for the OTAs too.
OTAs help the smaller properties get bookings by presenting systematically an overview of each of the properties along with the reviews that have a significant impact on the user’s booking decision.
But with the coming of Google Hotels, it has become easier to find it all on a single platform which might significantly hamper even the OTAs’ overall role, popularity, and traffic to respective sites. In fact, it has been deemed that Google’s New Hotel Search is a greater threat to Booking Rivals. The convenience of getting every single piece of information in the same place is surely a matter of pleasure for the travelers. This might exactly be the reason behind why OTAs might lose a lot of traffic, bookings, and hotel listings as more people will contact the hotels directly.
In a way, Google is to OTAs as OTAs are to Hotels (Tit for Tat!)
So, Is Google Becoming An OTA?
Well, not really! Even though Google has made a big leap in the world of travel and in the hospitality industry, it has quite clearly revealed no intention of becoming an OTA. In fact, we are in no way suggesting that Google is about to replace the OTAs. Google dominates at least two-third of the online search market. On the whole, it can be perceived as a giant metasearch engine providing an all-encompassing booking experience, focused on being relevant to the users’ search. It has become the biggest metasearch engine for hotels, a thing which Trivago and Kayak have been striving to accomplish for years. Undeniably, Google monopolization threat looms large! That being said, Book on Google is a new feature that enriches the user experience and provides them with confidence and convenience.
Conclusion + Key Takeaways
It cannot really be said that the advent of Google Hotels or the overall shift in the bookings procedure as Google joins the hotel bookings sector is providing one side an edge over the other. In fact, the battle is far from being one-sided. It’s too early to gauge the position of Google Hotels as a new rival in the field altogether. It surely is gaining popularity and the final outcome of it is a matter of extreme pleasure for the travelers with the benefit of being able to navigate through the platform with ease for booking an experience. Again, the seamless and smooth hotel search process on Google is pretty straightforward and less time-consuming. It is a subtle hint for the hotel owners and the OTAs to work together in harmony to ensure that their property is getting maximum visibility for the benefit of the travelers.
The travelers benefit ultimately for being able to find what exactly they are looking for, they have visibility on prices and insights and they get seamless booking experience like never before.
So, all in all, the key takeaways include:
• Properties are getting improved visibility along with the OTAs.
• It is benefiting the travelers searching for the desired options.
• Search results and seamless high-value content combined with booking experience is surely a win for the travelers and Google overall.
A Quick Glance: Ease-of Features By Google
• All the functionality of the OTAs
• Easy navigation
• All useful information on a single platform
• An overview of each of the properties- photographs, reviews, price listing, rating, location summary, amenities, etc.
• Varied filters
• The ease of putting a particular location in Google Maps and narrowing down the hotel search on that basis
• Using the “Deal” Filter “to highlight hotels where one or more of our partners offer rates that are significantly lower than the usual price for that hotel or similar hotels nearby”
• Effortless, intuitive, and fast
• In some markets, the ‘flights’ tab is also available allowing one to book flights too alongside hotels
• Offers a comparative list of prices and availability based on its “Ads”
• Comes with an upgraded reviews summary page
• You can also see features like Google assistance helping to find a hotel
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