Google – love it or hate it – plays an important part in almost every part of the travel ecosystem.
For consumers, at a basic level, its role at the top of the funnel has changed very little in the years it has been a search engine – giving travelers the opportunity to find details and information on destinations, routes, products and a lot more.
It takes billions (around $10 billion, in fact, via just two brands alone – Expedia Group and Booking Holdings in 2018) from travel providers that want to use the platform to place ads alongside search results or within specific services, such as its tools for hotel or flight search.
The role that Google plays in travel is changing and has now done so over the course of a number of years. And, crucially, it is that evolving role that concerns executives through the industry.
The shopping and buying of travel products is slowly evolving from a pure-play metasearch model to facilitated bookings, especially in the air ticket sector.
This subtle shift has consequences that everyone recognizes – but how much does it want to push this element and who loses out the most?
And it is worth pondering at this stage, at a broad level, how far will the search giant (even though it’s not really a “search giant” in the context of travel anymore) go to achieve its overall ambitions in travel.
Many in the industry accept that, in spite of their worries, many of them given oxygen in the media and at events, there is often very little that they can do to stall Google’s march.
Sure, regulators are doing their bit to curb its enthusiasm as a cross-industry ad network (especially in Europe), yet it still manages to find a way through and increase its presence in travel.
The decisions around its strategy in travel, therefore, will perhaps be made mainly by the company itself.
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