Google began initial testing of its hotel room reservation system in early July. There has been no official announcement from the search engine about this new service or when it will begin wider testing, but when, not if, it rolls out, the presence of a Google Hotel Finder direct booking engine is serious business for anyone marketing their lodging property online.
Earlier this month, travel news website Tnooz broke the story about their discovery of direct booking showing up on Google Hotel Finder, noting in the article that this is similar to TripAdvisor Instant Booking feature. Shortly after this article was published it appeared that the testing was removed from public view, but here is what we know thanks to Tnooz and others:
What Is Google Hotel Finder Direct Booking?
Simply stated, the Google Hotel Finder will have a room reservation system that allows users of the search engine to book rooms without ever having to leave Google. This is yet another sign that Google intends to keep users of its Hotel Finder metasearch engine on-site, rather than sending them off to book via the lodging provider’s website or an Online Travel Agent (OTA) such as Booking.com or Expedia.
How Does Google Hotel Finder Direct Booking Work?
Google Hotel Finder currently presents booking options for a property via ads. These ads include participating properties and OTAs. If the user selects to book through the hotel, the link takes them to that hotel’s website.
The new direct booking system being tested keeps the user within Google Hotel Finder when they choose reserve their stay with the hotel directly. Here are the steps once a user selects this booking option:
All of this is done with Google’s typical no-frills, minimalist interface, making it attractive to regular users of Google who use the search engine for other purchases.
At the time the testing was publicly available, the only reservation system confirmed to be working with Google in direct booking was Sabre Hospitality Solutions, which serves as the booking engine provider of over 20,000 independently owned hotels. It is not known if any other providers are working with Google on direct booking, but you can bet they will take notice now that Google’s testing has been discovered.
Why Should B&B Innkeepers Be Concerned with Google Hotel Finder Direct Booking?
Like TripAdvisor, it appears Google Hotel Finder is seeking to become an OTA in order to keep users on Google. It will do this by making the reservation system seamlessly integrated in the user experience which will likely keep regular Google users from visiting other OTAs or individual lodging websites. This creates more competition for those bed & breakfast inns who do not (or cannot if there reservation engine isn’t participating) have a direct booking option.
InsideOut Solutions will continue to monitor this story and report developments, including and official announcements from Google, as they emerge.
The next article on Google Hotel Finder will cover the new user interface that has been released.