8 years ago

Google Maps adds hotel search and pricing, panic and confusion assured

Google launched an experiment through its mapping division last night to place search and price functionality against hotel listings on Google Maps – implications of which could be far-ranging.

google maps hotel price

Announced via the Earth and Maps Blog and currently limited to just a few users, Google says the tools will allow people to enter check-in dates for a stay in a city and the number of nights.

Results are plotted on the map but the interesting part comes in the text results on the left-hand side.

Each listed hotel also has a drop-down displaying prices supplied from existing PPC ads for that hotel in the system.

Google, probably expecting all hell to break loose amongst hotels and OTAs who have worked tirelessly to SEO their hotel listings, got in early with this bit of reassurance:

“This new feature will not change the way that hotels are ranked in Google Maps. Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, along with geographic distance (where indicated) and other factors, regardless of whether there is an associated price.”

But the organic results aspect of this will not exclusively be what worries hotel chains and OTAs or, indeed, affiliates and content sites – it will be how such new search functionality will change the behaviour of PPC clients.

The experiment is currently only being run with a handful of advertisers (lucky them?), but imagine how this might effect the wider hotel bidding process if and when it is rolled out fully.

Google hints at what it is trying to do, at least from a consumer perspective:

“By showing you this relevant hotel rate information directly in the Google Maps results panel we hope to make this aspect of your trip planning more speedy and efficient.”

“Efficiency of trip-planning” is the key phrase here. Faced with very visible options to choose to book direct with the hotel or through an online travel agency, for example, what will have to be the price difference by the OTA to ensure it captures that booking?

Some might suggest OTAs will have to provide quite a compelling reason to add another layer in the minds of the consumer so that they book with them – and will it be solely price-led or is loyalty enough?

Alternatively this move could actually benefit those that have clever bid management software in place to create that level of efficiency and complexity within their own pricing and yield systems.

Alan Joseph, chief executive of luxury hotel website TravelIntelligence and ex-managing director of Ebookers, says:

“This first and foremost should signal to everyone that Google is willing to change their model and risk their existing revenue stream from travel distributors in order to provide a better user experience for customers.

“I do think the leading OTAs, at least the ones who can provide that displayed price, will do well as we all have pricing feeds that can support this.”

On the media agency side, Andrew Girdwood, head of search at BigMouthMedia, says such a move will also put pressure on inventory management:

“If you are going to attempt to show prices/room rates in a creative [way] then you really need to make sure they’re accurate. You really need to make sure you’ve rooms, at that price, available at that hotel otherwise you’ll suffer from a costly bounce rate.”

But while the emphasis on the one hand is about efficient bid management, Girdwood warns against over-indulgence and how Google likes to throw “dangerous curve balls” into the mix.

“Are your keywords doing well/badly because of your bidding strategy or because Google’s putting your prices alongside properties in Google Maps? That’s a good question to ask as, today, some travel brands with a significant budget will  have no idea.”

Interestingly, Josephs suggests the most likely sector to be affected by the move is metasearch.

Google, in some respects, is pretty much doing the meta element for the consumer on-site, albeit via PPC ads rather than XML feeds direct from a hotel.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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    Yea, google is entering every single market. You can do that when you control the search market. It means unfair competition for people who are working in the travel industry and try to get their sites listed for the related keywords, but there comes google and takes over the top positions…

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  8. Monica

    While this may be a boon for travelers, as another poster mentioned, it’s a killer for small lodging properties who cannot list with Expedia, et al. We rely on guests finding us with a more targeted search. Guests will not be able to find rooms with us because we are not on one of the major GDS suppliers.

    So, instead of delivering the BEST results for the traveler, they are merely providing GDS suppliers with yet another incentive for smaller players to be required to join and pay their 30% commissions.

    I have an AdWords account that I use. Google still won’t be providing the guest with open dates and prices for my property.

    Unless Google would build a system to read my particular availability calendar!

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    Very informative. I gave you a plug in the BloggerTalk.net newsletter.

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  18. RobertKCole

    My take si that this is just the preliminary testing for functionality that will wind up in Google’s universal search results. and that’s not a bad thing. I decided to write up a blog post on the subjec: Google Maps Hotel Prices – Fear & Loathing in Online Travel http://j.mp/a4lNkw Let me know if you agree with my assessment.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @robert – agree. the slow morphing of search results from individual components (maps) and channels (PPC and organic) has been talked about for some time. No model stays the same for ever.

    • Jonathan Alford

      well said, Robert – I read your blog post, and interesting you mentioned Bing as well – it’s actually making progress as a nice alternative for travel search.

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  20. tourpro

    It’s time for properties to provide structured data feeds directly to Google. Or some kind of connectivity to PMS.

    It could be the ultimate disintermediation of travel distribution.

  21. Stuart

    If google is only dislaying rates from ppc customers (which is what it reads like) then while it is probably a step forward in cuteness, it is a step backwards in relevance. What they’re really doing is easing the ability for trip planners to plan their trips at google advrtising properties — hardly a win win proposition. 

    That said if they were to broaden the properties to all and ( cough cough) actually position them correctly on a map, then yes that should be a considerable concern to travel planning websites.

  22. Graham Robertson

    I think people are getting a bit ahead of themselves and Pete got it right:

    “potential impact first depends on the volume of searches via Google Maps vs. “normal” keywords searches”

    As it stands now, hotels are listed in the sidebar and it’s fairly easy to click through to use their in-house reservations system. Although it would appear to hurt anyone in metasearch the most, I don’t see this as being the case and I agree again with both Pete & Danielle that it will be bigger chains and OTA’s that will benefit at the cost of the smaller guys.

    Before this gets too out of hand, is there any concrete data on trip planning and the use of Google maps? It would be nice to know what kind of numbers we are dealing with. That being said, once this gets it’s feet it could change the entire trip planning process and put us in very uncharted waters.

  23. Pete Meyers

    @Kevin: It seems the onus would be on Google to provide publisher tools that allow real-time rate accuracy. And maybe their bid management tools are now able to integrate w/ rate feeds, but I don’t recall whether this is currently available on such a dynamic minute by minute basis. If so, happy to eat my words…

  24. Pete Meyers


    At first blush, it seems the potential impact first depends on the volume of searches via Google Maps vs. “normal” keywords searches.

    Granted, I’m sure Google will increase the visibility of maps even further within standard searches, further pushing down organic results and adding pressure to non-PPC advertisers to become one.

    Secondly, if it’s true that the rate display is based on existing Google PPC advertisers, this approach is lacking at best. It would draw greater attention to big PPC advertisers which tend to be global chains (no offense Paris Hilton), punish smaller properties (as mentioned above,) have potential to display wildly inaccurate price claims, and in a sense bring into question how helpful Google is truly being to travelers and publishers alike.

    That said, this push could have a sizable impact within mobile and help spur greater expenditure within mobile advertising.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @pete: thanks for the comment. surely the onus would be on the provider to ensure the prices are accurate, for fear of damaging their reputation?

  25. Stephan Ekbergh

    As if this isnt enough the hotel industry itself is down on it´s knees begging for customers. Owners are drowning on debts.
    Read this Economist article: http://www.economist.com/business-finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15721464

    Hotel W Union Square sold for 2 mill USD

  26. Daniele Beccari

    This is quite an obvious move for Google which is absolutely not changing an inch to their existing model.
    Google is in the business of online advertising and that’s what it is.

    This is clearly going to impact metasearchers.
    Metasearch are also in the business of online advertising.
    Metasearch pitch themselves as a “search engine for travel” and sell PPC on their listings just like Google.
    So here is the search engine’s answer.

    It will also impact small hotels. Where previously any listed property could be found on a Google map and users could reach out to them directly, now they will still be found on a Google map but with links to Expedia, Priceline etc. for bookings. Ouch.

    From a travel technology perspective, the key question is how accurate and up to date are going to be rates and availabilities? Are rates inclusive of taxes and fees, always/not always? What about local currencies? The devil is in the implementation, but even if it’s not perfect today one thing is sure – it can only get better.

  27. BJ

    Well this is an interesting curve ball for the hotel industry.

    I can feel the already overburdened Revenue Managers and IT Departments starting to sweat… while the Promo Managers grin from ear to ear saying “it’s just another consumer touch-point opportunity, how bad could it be…”

    Maybe it’s time for a TI-industry “separation of church and state” maneuver – e.g. separation of “map” and “product” may be a good start.

  28. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by socialmapping: Google Maps adds hotel search and pricing, panic and confusion assured http://ff.im/-hXsnI


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