Fact-Checking Google: Innovation in Travel Search
Here’s a question: Would Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA have an impact on innovation in travel search?
Google claims that it will “create great innovations in flight search” that it could not achieve without buying ITA. (Shocking, we know!)
But let’s get real.
KAYAK, Hotwire, Bing, FareCompare and dozens of other travel sites have provided real innovations that benefit consumers by developing ways to use ITA’s travel search software as a way to attract consumers.
If Google gains control of ITA, what incentive do they have to continue making the best of that software available to competitors?
And once competitors are cut off from the best technology that ITA has to offer and they become even more dependent on Google to get users engaged in travel search, what incentive does Google have to keep innovating? To attract customers? Why would we want to trade the competition and innovation of dozens of travel search companies for the decisions of one company – Google?
And Google never explains why it cannot simply license ITA’s services and leave ITA free to deal with other online travel companies. The difference, of course, is that by gaining control of ITA itself, Google will gain control over its competitors. It is no surprise that Google – which already controls over 70 percent of the general online search market – would like to gain the same dominance over travel search.
Nor will Google even promise that it will make ITA services available to any current licensee beyond the current term of their license. Instead, Google has made clear that it wants the freedom to cut its competitors off from the ITA services upon which they depend to serve consumers.
And the consumer? Well, they sort of get left out of the picture.