Just like TripAdvisor, Google users can now book a hotel room without ever leaving google.
Whether consumers are searching for lava lamps or hotel rooms, Google has always been focused on providing users with an incomparable user experience across all devices. While Google has always provided users with information about hotels through Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+, the search engine giant is now letting users instantly book rooms with "Book on Google." Similar to TripAdvisor's Instant Booking initiative, Book on Google allows users to finish the entire booking process without ever venturing out from its comfortable interface.
This may come as a surprise to most hoteliers because Google Hotel Finder hasn't officially been announced. However, Google-facilitated bookings are slowly but surely rolling out across a few select U.S. cities for desktop searches. Continue reading to learn more about "Book on Google" and some of the implications.
Is Google Acting as an Online Travel Agency?
For quite some time now, Google has offered search for hotels through its Maps and Search products. When users were ready to book the room and finish the transaction, Google traditionally handed users off to online travel agencies and hotel booking engines. The Book on Google initiative provides users with a more user-friendly experience by pairing with Sabre Global Distribution Systems to handle the payment processing.
When hotels partner with Book on Google, hotels agree to pay commissions to both Google and Sabre for all transactions processed. After the consumer's credit card information is processed, the hotel handles all of subsequent customer interactions, including customer service. While this strategy could indeed lead to an increased level of conversions, it runs at a cross-current to the big business of helping middlemen or online travel agencies increase bookings. According to many estimates, Priceline Group and Expedia Inc. are responsible for approximately 5% of Google's total advertising income.
What Does Book on Google Mean for Hotels?
The new Book on Google commissions program means hoteliers are more likely to convert more customers. Instead of consumers possibly being lost in the handoff from Google to the hotel's website, consumers are able to book directly through Google+, Google Search, or Maps. The downside of this is that hotels must share revenue with Google as they would with other OTAs. Partnered hotels will still be responsible for handling customer service.
Google's new facilitated booking strategy has several similarities to that used by the user-review mammoth, TripAdvisor. Over the last year, TripAdvisor has been instituting Instant Booking, which enables it to manage meta search transactions to allow users to complete transactions from its interface. However, TripAdvisor is struggling with getting major hotels on board, landing only Choice, Accor, and Marriott so far. With Google's new service, it faces the same hurdles as TripAdvisor did, which is how to get hotel chains to buy into it's new Instant Booking tool.