Google has been quietly upgrading its hotel functionalities in recent months.
With each new improvement, Google’s threat to the booking travel industry grows.
Its most significant change came earlier this year when Google introduced a new fully-fledged hotel search and booking site.
“We’re evolving the way our hotel search works on smartphones to help users explore options and make decisions on their smallest screens,” said Eric Zimmerman, director of travel product management, Google.
“The new hotel search experience includes better price filtering, easier-to-find amenity information and the ability to book from a number of travel providers.”
Just last week Google expanded its hotel search options even further, adding the capability to also include vacation rental properties.
The launch of Google Hotels and its dedicated search and booking site trace back to 2010 when Google acquired ITA Software for $700 million.
“The acquisition will benefit passengers, airlines and online travel agencies by making it easier for users to comparison shop for flight and airfares and by driving more potential customers to airlines’ and online travel agencies’ websites,” said Google in a statement at the time.
Now, almost 10 years later, Google users can see and book properties easily through Google Hotels on platforms like Expedia, HomeAway, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor and more.
Google’s expanded functionality in the hospitality space threatens online booking sites and online travel agents. Now hotels can give website links and phone information to potential guests on mobile. This small change gives users the chance to get in touch with hotels and bypass any OTAs or other third parties.
Another of Google's innovations in the hotel space came from its Google Assistant. In January this year, Google Assistant’s artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant became more interwoven with Maps. Previously, users could ask the Assistant to direct you to a location and Maps would get the directions. Now the voice assistant can be used to share users’ location and ETA with friends and family.
Google already generates billions of dollars and countless data through Google Maps. Google is now poised to make even more money alongside Maps and further grow its impact in the hotel market with the standalone Google Hotels. Accommodation providers, restaurants and other companies buy ads highlighting their locations and displaying them more prominently when users search relevant terms, not just on Google’s web search but also on its dedicated hotel website.
As of 2019 however, Assistant can also help guests book hotel rooms, partnering with Choice Hotels, Accor, InterContinental Hotels Group, Priceline and more.
Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt are all notably missing from the partnership.
Another travel-related feature Assistant has added is the ability to notify travellers when they can check-in to a flight. US travellers flying domestically with United Airlines can even check in entirely through Assistant, with more airlines expected to adopt the service soon.
The new hotel integration is similar to Uber’s partnership with Maps which began in 2016. From the period of January 2016 to December 2018, Uber paid Google $58 million (USD) to help drivers navigate and allow customers to book a ride directly through the app.