Published: 22 April 2016
Over the past few weeks we have seen heightened media coverage about the new Google ‘Destinations’ feature, which has raised eyebrows in the travel industry and how this change to search might impact digital marketing for travel brands across the globe.
Made available on Tuesday 5th April in the UK, US, France and Germany via the Google app or web browser, this new service combines flight and hotel search with maps, destinations guides and suggested itineraries.
The service, originally showcased in late 2015, allows users to search for a destination and they are returned a scrollable list of the tourist destinations, average temperatures, flights, suggested itineraries and a trip planning option.
The culmination of these options offers an estimated trip priced for seven nights in the selected destination and popularity dependent on the month of travel selected.
All of the above have sent shock waves through the tour operator industry and could possible threaten many travel business’s making the self-booking trip even easier to make without professional assistance.
When Travel Weekly asked product manager, Nabil Naghdy at Google about their intentions for this service he said “Its Google’s “mission” is to organise the world’s information and make it readily available. The feature is focused on how we can make it super-easy for users to process information,”
When he was asked about Google future plans to be seen as a metasearch or and OTA Naghdy replied, “We are not trying to copy any competitor’s features. We work very closely with partners to bring in all this data.
He also stressed that it was possible to click through to Booking.com or Expedia to make bookings so Google were not currently replacing this with a book or buy function.
Oliver Heckmann, Google vice-president also stressed at 2016 ITB exhibition that the search giant has no plans to act as an online travel agent (OTA) "now or in the future" despite offering a 'Book on Google' feature on mobile search. We are working with partners to build features, and one of those is Book on Google."
Heckmann also revealed that that a recent study has revealed that a 50% increase year on year in mobile travel search, but a decrease in the time spent per visit on travel mobile sites.
Google also confirmed that at the moment Destinations did not involve any personalisation but this will depend on the popularity and desire for these features in the future.
It remains to be seen how far Google will take the Destinations feature in the travel sector into 2016, whether it will offer consumers the option to book or buy, but we will be watching closely.