Google and travel has been the elephant in the room of the online travel business for awhile. In a related sense, I have been astounded that agents continue to use wholesalers that retail as ultimately, you are giving money to your competitors to take you out of business.
But this is different. Very, very different.
The Sabre press release demonstrates thethreat of the new development to agents “…reducing the abandonment rate commonly seen when consumers have to switch sites to complete a transaction.”
It’s like saying it’s so easy, why not do it all now. Search once. Book. Its immediate, connected, technology.
Why the big threat?
Google is omnipresent . If you have a Gmail account the content can be scanned. Every Google travel related search has been stored and categorized and the big data pool flooding like nothing before it. Google has more market intelligence on travel than anyone. Their work on big data is unprecedented.
Google knows more about how, where, when and why people want to travel. Now they are giving pax the option to book that directly. They will even track when people travel. Big brother.
Can Google be trusted?
Put simply, in this context would be if you search for accommodation in New York, is the top result the most relevant one or the one which services the Google commercial interest?
On one hand, Google has made life great. Business has changed. Rules are different. The whole anti-trust thing has been tried but it’s hard to prove and Google are so big that they have the best lawyers and no one is going to legally kick their arse anyway. There has been accusations that Google in its search results returns results for products/services/knowledge which in turn promotes their business. People can’t be that fussed as we continue to use Google.
An Expedia Manager has written some articles were factually incorrect with search result ranking. Point taken David. So make up your own mind. Remember, you don’t have to use Google, Expedia or Facebook, but people do. You can’t complain as they are freebie information sources.
Who is going to hurt?
Travel agents, although Australian and New Zealand travel agents will hurt least as it still a long way to go from Australia to anywhere. On the other hand, Expedia does sell to whilst simultaneously competing with travel agents, but at least travel agents can make some commission through an agent program. No benefit for agents with the Google tech.
How will Expedia and Tripadvisor search results be displayed in the future? How far away are we from seeing Google’s own hotel ranking algorithm which becomes the new gold standard instead of TA?
How about Sabre?
For many years Sabre have been known for their work providing platforms used on a day-to-day basis by travel agents. Commercially they have made a great move by aligning with Google. Massive win. The business community is pretty happy as Sabre shares have gone up 8% in the past week.
Will traditional travel companies feel the same?? Time will tell.
Is it the end or just the beginning?
Depends how you look at it. With the NDC or new distribution capability being rolled out, Sabre and Google have positioned themselves at the absolute forefront to capture the travelers dollar as soon as they finished searching.
Hotels are only the beginning.
That elephant in the room is going to be very hard to ignore.