It's the end of OTAs as we know (and Google feels fine)
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Observers think that the rising travel ambitions of Google will put it in direct competition with metasearch engines, which will be forced to transform in order to survive.
OTAs, on the other hand, having spent billions of advertising dollars annually with Google and sell travel products, are less likely to have their positions jeopardised.
When asked what the near future holds for travel metasearchers during the WIT 2016 roundtable earlier this week, HotelsCombined CEO Hichame Assi said he would be watching Google closely to decide the next course of action while Qunar co-founder Fritz Demopoulos said he expects more vertical integration to happen until OTAs and metas become indistinguishable from each other.
Already, most major metasearchers are owned by OTA conglomerates such as Kayak under The Priceline Group, Qunar under Ctrip and Trivago under Expedia.
This doesn’t mean Google is overtaking the entire travel booking chain.
Guillaume de Marcillac, co-CEO of Fastbooking, which provides hotel channel management solutions, is convinced Google will come out a winner but will not become an OTA.
“What Google doesn’t have is the ability to source for suppliers in a highly fragmented market such as with independent hotels, which accounts for 2/3 of all hotel rooms,” he said. “What they love is to work with big OTA partners to simplify the connectivity.”
“I can confirm Google is the fastest growing, but they also start from a lower base. Internationally, the biggest metasearcher for hotels in terms of absolute volume is still TripAdvisor.”
Eric Zimmerman, director for Google Travel, assuages worries brought up by OTAs, adding that Google is “very focused on a wide gamut of travel problems (but) we don’t want to be in the OTA business. There are many great OTAs and suppliers out there and we are not the right entity”.