Google has long offered hotel metasearch through its Search and Maps products, but it has always handed off users to hotel websites and online travel agencies to complete the transactions.
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The new strategy of keeping users on its recognizable and minimalist Google user experience — with barely any hotel branding — may lead to increased conversions, but it also runs at a cross-current to its business of helping middlemen online travel agencies get bookings.
Expedia Inc and Priceline Group contribute to about 5% of Google advertising income, by some estimates.
This facilitated-booking strategy is similar to the one followed by TripAdvisor. For about a year the user-reviews giant has been rolling out Instant Booking, in which it faciliates metasearch transactions to keep users within its interface. Google faces a similar challenge to the one facing TripAdvisor in getting hotels and hotel chains to participate in its instant booking tool.
Once a user selects a room, they share their contact information for receiving a confirmation email from the hotel directly. The user then enters credit card information, if they haven’t already provided that to Google Wallet. Google’s hotel tool completes the purchase within its interface.
It was unclear who was helping Google interact with the hotel booking systems. When asked, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, which has more than 20,000 independent hotel customers for its central reservation systems software, said about the Google effort: “We are powering the backend only for our hotel customers.” If Sabre is helping Google with hotel metasearch nationwide, it would be a surprising turnabout.
Earlier today Sabre revealed its was in beta-testing with Google on a new commission-based (not pay-per click) model for letting hotels receive bookings via visitors using organic search in Google search and Maps. If Sabre decides to also market Google’s instant booking feature, it may be able to convince many of the 20,000 or so independent hotels that use its central reservation system to sign up.