Is Google about to become the next big OTA? Google’s new experiment to show hotel prices along with map listings is a step closer to negating the need to use an online travel agent (OTA) to find the best deals online.
Could Google’s move in this direction have serious implications on traffic and long-term usage of OTA’s for booking hotels and travel? It’s tempting to react quickly and say no, but if we actually consider this in more detail there could be good arguments hinting towards the success of this new BETA feature.
Google is the first stop
Whether we like it or not, Google is regularly the first stop for many to find anything they need online. If users are able to find the hotel information that they need in a quick, easy and familiar format through one site “Google”, they are less likely to need to go through a middle man.
Hotels have a Love / Hate relationship with OTA’s
OTA’s have almost become like the modern equivalent of Heroin for many hotels. They hate paying the huge percentage fees but can’t bring themselves away from relying on the bookings provided by such channels. Google advertising through maps could help hotels to lower their dependancy on OTA and other expensive “middle man” channels.
Google Maps information is consistently improving
Google are rapidly improving the quality information available to the user from the Maps interface. Two of the most important features are available now, both location and of course (drumroll) best prices for selected dates. The hotel can now actively manage their maps profile and optimize this for conversion.
In addition I can easily view user generated content, reviews pulled in from TripAdvisor, Local Metro stops, web articles / news about the hotel, videos, photos and even a 3D model of the hotel. In fact I can find pretty much anything I want from one easy and central place. I can only see the quality of this information improving with time and more so as the hotels take serious ownership of their maps listings.
Google Maps the standard choice for Mobile Phones
With mobile web usage (and even mobile hotel transactions) forecast to increase immensely over the next few years, it’s hard not to notice that Google Maps tends to be the default location based search across multiple mobile platforms. It’s almost become the standard. Searching and booking a hotel would be easy using location based services and a simple and effective maps interface with pricing. Google can really capitalize on there share of the mobile market with Google maps. Why download multiple additional apps when all the info that you need is in one place?
Of course, I’m not inferring that the OTA’s will disappear overnight, they likely won’t disappear at all, but they should definitely be paying attention to Google’s advances in the marketplace. Hotels staff should also be aware of the opportunities available to them, they can maximise benefits from the changes and also become more proactive about managing their Google Maps profiles.