Amid hotel distribution wars, Google will be the last site …


In an ideal situation for hotels, travelers looking for
overnight accommodations would just come directly to them – by walking into the
lobby, calling a 1‐800 number or visiting the hotel’s website.

This would be
the most cost‐effective and convenient way for hotels to welcome guests.

But for several reasons over the past two decades –
comparison shopping, trusted reviews and a much lower overhead – intermediaries
have successfully inserted themselves into the equation directly between hotels
and travelers.

Because of this, the hotel customer journey has become
increasingly convoluted, and travelers, thinking they can find a better hotel or
a better price, now search and research dozens of sites before finally booking
a room.

Google is the single biggest threat OTAs have seen thus far, and they should certainly be worried.

Marco Benvenuti

But what if I told you there’s a new tool that sits way at
the top of the funnel, right where nearly all travelers start their initial
research, that provides the same benefits of an online travel agency but sends traffic, bookings
and, most importantly, guest data directly to the hotel?

If such a tool existed, would it not only restore revenue
and convenience for hotels, but also eliminate the wasted time, energy and
resources of today’s travelers trying to ensure they’ve found the right hotel
at the right price?

Enter Google Travel. I don’t have to waste space here with
statistics on how many people use Google in the travel dreaming and research
phases.

You already know this, because it’s probably where you start your
searches. It’s likely on your homepage – the first thing you see when you open
the internet.

While OTAs fight to remain relevant and hoteliers scramble
to get their products on as many shelves as possible, the potential is there
for Google to emerge as the clear winner.

Like Netflix has done for television
and Amazon has done for retail, Google is positioning itself to completely
disrupt and revolutionize the way travelers book hotel rooms.

Google is leaning in

Google’s travel efforts are not new by any stretch. Since
2006 the company has been acutely focused on serving up the right search
results, giving travelers key information they need to make smart, educated
travel decisions.

Around 2010, company executives realized they could monetize
their position at the top of the funnel and began creating advertising products
to allow hotels and OTAs to pay for greater positioning.

But until recently, Google’s push into the traveler’s
booking path has been slow and calculated. After all, the company couldn’t risk
travelers bypassing their biggest advertisers: the OTAs.

Now, however, it’s clear that Google is leaning all the way
in. Over the past 18 months, the search giant has evolved from a hospitality
digital marketing medium to a major player in hotel loyalty and distribution.
Recent moves by the company include:

  • Announcing the development of a “hotel‐plus‐flight
    product”
  • Offering exclusive hotel discounts to Google One users
  • Introducing a mobile‐specific hotel pricing tracker
  • Boosting “Book on Google” features and availability
  • Introducing new Google Maps hotel search functionality that highlights deals
  • Announcing “Your Trips,” which collects flight price tracking, hotel research,
    etc.
  • Redesigning a more modern hotel search experience on both desktop and mobile

Who wins out in the
end?

Room distribution is in need of a shake‐up – from the
hotelier’s perspective, but more importantly from the traveler’s perspective.

Booking a hotel room is often complicated and convoluted, with so many options,
sites and packages that travelers are never quite satisfied they got the best
deal.

There’s plenty of room for a company to come in and do it
right – offer a personalized experience that cuts down on the clutter and
leaves the user feeling satisfied.

Google has the data – it can help travelers
make decisions with the click of a button – and has built trust with a large
number of users.

When all the dust settles, it won’t be surprising to see
Google as the last man standing.

In fact, recently the first major hotel chain, Choice Hotels
International, announced that it would participate in “Book on Google,” a newer
feature that allows travelers to complete their booking without leaving the
search site. It won’t be long before the other major chains follow suit.

Should hotels close the revenue gap even slightly, Google
just might be inclined to return to their original mission: providing travelers
with the best experience, not the one that makes them the most money.

With this, Google has the power to simplify the entire
customer journey. They’ve got all the data in the world, enough to determine
exactly what a traveler is looking for and send them to the right hotel from
the get‐go.

Working directly in conjunction with hotels that store their own
loyalty and guest preferences, Google can serve up personalized rates and
offers that are tailored to each individual traveler based on a number of
factors, namely supply, demand and the customer’s worth, or value, to the
hotel.

Google is the single biggest threat OTAs have seen thus far,
and they should certainly be worried. For hotels, on the other hand, Google has
become their most important direct‐booking channel and represents an
opportunity to get right back to the top of the funnel.

Note: Related research available

Duetto has a whitepaper with insights from hotel marketing and distribution experts on how to leverage Google’s entire hotel platform for optimal profitability.

About the author…

Marco
Benvenuti is co-founder and chief marketing and strategy officer at Duetto

 

 

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