For hotels, Google expands direct commission-based bookings [UPDATED]

Today Google announced some changes to how it markets and distributes hotel inventory, making it easier for hotels to list their properties directly on its site — and to collect leads seamlessly on mobile devices — while skipping middlemen like online travel agencies (OTAs) and other metasearch sites.

In a shift from its earlier years in hotel metasearch, Google is experimenting with a commission-based model that’s like what OTAs use, rather than cost-per-click. The offer is available only in the US, so far.

CORRECTION: Google has followed up with Tnooz to say that the Hotel Ads Commission Program is worldwide. What is currently US-only is the Book on Google feature. I regret the error.

Google’s Tom Mulders, senior program manager, travel, released the search giant’s first public statement on the projects today, confirming a program that Tnooz was the first media outlet to report was in testing with a handful of independent hotels this summer.

For hotel owners, the big news is that the company is now offering a clear path to revenue managers who want to sign up with the new Google Hotel Ads Commission Program.

There was no hint on what commission rates might be.

Hotels that have connected their property management systems (PMSs) with a channel manager from Seekda, a hotel technology company based in Vienna, Austria, can now access Google’s new commission-based listings.

Thousands of hotels have already been using Seekda to manage their hotel rates and inventory via Google and TripAdvisor.

According to a quote from Seekda:

“This new commission model gives smaller chains and independent hotels the option to participate in the highly effective Google Hotel Ads, without having to manage CPC bids and budgets.”

Seekda hotel

Google has also been partnering with DerbySoft, Accor Hotel-owned Fastbooking, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, Seekda, TravelClick, and Trust International to implement the new technology without any additional technical work on the hoteliers’ parts. For example, TravelClick reports:

“Since March, hotels enrolled in TravelClick’s Demand Services program have seen, on average, a 56 percent year-over-year increase in revenue driven by Google Hotel Ads. The evolution from a pay-per-click to commission model has increased hotel revenue.”

Sabre was the first central reservation system (CRS) provider to offer participation in the commission-based program, since earlier this summer. Existing users of Sabre Hospitality’s SynXis platform can participate.

There are still kinks to work out with the system, however. When Tnooz sampled hotel searches and found Morgans New York inventory available direct from Google (via a back-end powered by Sabre Hospitality systems) there was today some ugly code in the result:

morgans new york google direct booking

UPDATE: Google tells Tnooz the bug we pointed out has been fixed since publication time.

But other independent hotels have seen good results. Tnooz found that Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster, Mass., has opted to only receive direct bookings via Google hotel search — without any alternative via an OTA like or Expedia.

Google Hotel


Google hotel

Instant booking is expanded

In other big news, Google will be making it more common for hotels to let users book hotels directly from within the Google interface — and without having to jump off to a hotel’s own website. While Google has been doing this on mobile devices for select properties since 2013, it’s only today that it is making the functionality possible across desktop and tablet devices and to simplify the process in a way to prompt more hotels to join.

Just as with TripAdvisor’s instant book feature, Google sends the confirmation email to the hotel. This differs from standard practice with most OTAs, who fight to “own” the customer. The company says the instant book feature is now offered to all Hotel Ads partners and works for users in the US on mobile, tablet, and desktop devices.

Google is also competing with OTAs and metasearch providers like TripAdvisor by adding more details about amenities for American hotels. It plans to add similar amenity details for hotels in 23 other nations in the next year.

The search giant says that its goal is to make it more apparent “right in search” whether a hotel has free wifi, free breakfast, or a swimming pool, among other perks.

google hotels amenities

google hotels

In other news, Google has shut down Hotel Finder, a soft brand for its metasearch. A look today at had this message, “You can now search for hotels right on Google and in Google Maps and get a list of hotels with prices, photos, reviews and Street View panoramas.”

EARLIER: Google quietly adds instant booking for hotels, copying TripAdvisor

RELATED: TripAdvisor nabs Marriott for Instant Booking, stock jumps 14%

CONTEXT: TravelClick sold for $930 million, giving exit to Genstar

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Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.



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  1. Made Darsika

    Hi Sean,

    I am going to register on it through our booking engine, hope it would work well to generate more traffic into our site.

  2. Google Hotelfinder jetzt mit Provisionsmodell

    […] Sean: „For hotels, Google expands direct commission-based bookings.“ Tnooz Blog, online Version (updated) vom […]

  3. Sessel

    Hi Sean. Are you able to provide any insight as to how the bidding process works? I’ve been scouring the Google Hotel Ads pages for this information, without any luck, before we possibly sign up. Does the hotel provide a percentage that it is prepared to pay Google for the ad, and the higher the percentage, the more visible the listing? Thanks.

  4. manish baliga

    Hi Sean
    Towards the end of the article it says the “In other news, Google has shut down Hotel Finder, a soft brand for its metasearch. A look today at had this message, “You can now search for hotels right on Google and in Google Maps and get a list of hotels with prices, photos, reviews and Street View panoramas.”

    I thought that hotel finder is the same as the google hotel search? Is there a difference?

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Hi Manish,
      Thanks for your comment. For a while, Google was presenting its hotel metasearch under the soft brand “Hotel Finder”. But then it started emphasizing hotel results right in the ordinary search process. So it has stopped using the soft brand name “Hotel Finder.” See message here:

  5. Manoj Nair

    I believe the services are open only for hotels in US, when is it coming to India and how do we login for such great services from Google????

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      It’s available worldwide, but you have to use one of the partner platforms it is working with. Some of those partner platforms are mentioned in the article, Manoj. Good luck.

  6. Michael Curidlo

    Great article.
    Just wonder Hotel Ads Commission Program is worldwide but “Book on Google” feature is US only. How does it work for hotels participating on commission program outside US? If there is no book on google feature? Isn’t contradictory?

  7. Andrew

    Google has taken the meta-search model and reversed it, to bring direct hotel bookings to the forefront. The promise of diminishing distribution costs for hotels, while certainly alluring, is misleading in so many ways.
    This model is very similar to meta-search as it is based on escalating commissions that hotels will pay Google in a bidding war to appear on search results and placements. In fact, this will only take the same revenues that OTAs would make and put into the pocket of Google.

    Another misconception is that this is an opportunity for all hotels – in fact, it is an opportunity for the handful of multinational hotel chains, that just like the largest OTAs (Booking, Expedia), outbid other hotels for specific placements.
    The basic truth in online travel is still the same, and the latest move by Google has not changed it: hotels cannot provide the same value to the consumer. Chains are certainly adding value through loyalty points, amenities and such, however OTAs and other distribution players are able to create a wide range of value propositions that hotels cannot. As long as price parity is in place (who knows for how long), OTAs will continue to be the preferred choice for consumers. While accommodation is a top profit centre for OTAs, this is also where consumers book air, insurance and other travel arrangements. OTAs have many moving parts and fluctuating margins that they can play with to offer the consumer additional value, as well as allowing them to earn points/miles.

    When all is said and done, hotels receive more than half of their room bookings from OTAs, Agents, GDS, Bed-banks, Business travellers etc. Can an independent hotel or chain afford to risk these relationships, relying instead only on Google hotel search and sustain that for an infinite amount of time? This will surely create an opportunity for other hotels and chains to pursue more solid and performance driven distribution channels and gain higher reservation volumes as a result.

    Fundamentally, I wouldn’t start to sing Google’s hotel search praise before enough facts and case studies emerge. However, OTAs now need to adapt to these and other potential threats by investing in building diverse, specialised travel products (via dynamic packaging, incentive programs etc.) that allows them to remain in control. The move by airlines to push for direct distribution replacing GDS, means they simply cannot partner with any given hotel/chain and that still leaves the OTAs as valuable operators at the first point of sale position – something that should keep them in control of the booking process for now.

    • Osvaldo

      I consider a good point the analogy with similar flight booking program that Google did before hotels. How big has been the impact of such direct flight reservations with Google? Maybe this can help to understand how big Book on Google will be.

  8. Osvaldo

    Great news Sean. I’ve reviewed in my past article on Tnooz the Meta Channel Managers that you cited here and I think that now they gain even more importance for such a revolution. It’s very important as you’ve reported that now they give a precise path for hotels to work with Commission based advertising or in Direct Booking. I’ve reviewed the software involved in such process here: . Let’s keep updated !

  9. Ben Smart

    Google has been aggressively trying to boost the amount of content they have online for hotels. Last year, they had a push to get their Google Local Experts to review hotels. Also last year they revamped their ‘See Inside – Street View’ feature for hotels. This year they have had a big push to add Street View style tours for major hotels.
    Google clearly wants to offer users the best platform to research and book hotels. And from where I am sat, that’s exactly what they are doing.


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