FairSearch - for the right result

HotelNewsNow Editor: Google "Misleading" Hoteliers on Plans

Google industry manager Nate Bucholz turned some heads last week when he said that Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA Software “means we will be able to take bits of information to deliver more personalised results and give the advertisers really well qualified leads.”

Among those who took notice was HotelNewsNow editor Jason Freed, who penned a must-read article on what the deal could mean for hoteliers, and ultimately consumers, who may end up paying more as a result of Google’s strategy to exploit its dominance in search with ITA’s leading position as a provider of online travel technology.

Freed says Bucholz was “misleading” when he asserted that Google won’t take consumers’ money directly or become an Online Travel Agency, or OTA:

“He’s accurate that Google may not directly conduct booking transactions, but in the end that doesn’t really matter for hoteliers. What really matters is that Google is in no way helping to drive bookings to the hotel website, which we all know is crucial to a successful operating model for the hotel industry. Instead it seems that advancements to Google Places will in fact de-emphasize the importance of booking direct, and, if hoteliers want to be part of the booking game, they must completely alter their distribution strategy to spend more money on advertising with Google.”

And Freed isn’t saying this hypothetically either – Google is expanding its paid advertising program for hotels, Tnooz reported earlier this month. According to the Tnooz piece, a Google employee posted this explanation:

“What you’re seeing is a new feature that shows price and availability for hotels. We’re currently working with a number of partners to allow users to click through and begin the booking process. In addition, we’re working to expand these partnerships and exploring ways to allow individual hoteliers to easily share updated pricing /availability. In the interim, you can already add direct booking links in Google Places (see help article).Thanks for your excitement about participating; we’re looking forward to opening this up to more partners.”

So, is Google pursuing what’s best for its users? For consumers? The most fair to the hotel brands? Or just the best way for Google to collect the most advertising dollars from the highest bidders? If you like what Google already has in store for you, stay tuned for much more if Google is allowed to complete its acquisition of ITA Software. If not, you better hope that the DOJ challenges Google’s attempt to gain control over a key input to the online travel industry.