Google quietly adds instant booking for hotels, copying TripAdvisor

For the first time, Google users can book a hotel room without ever leaving the search giant’s familiar desktop interface.

The addition of assisted booking to, the search giant’s metasearch tool, hasn’t been officially announced. But the Google-faciliated bookings appear to be slowly rolling out across a select handful of listings in U.S. desktop search.

Google has long offered hotel metasearch through its Search and Maps products. But it has always handed off users to hotel websites and online travel agencies to complete the transactions.

The new strategy of keeping users on its recognizable and minimalist Google user experience — with barely any hotel branding — may lead to increased conversions.

But it also runs at a cross-current to its business of helping middlemen online travel agencies get bookings. Expedia Inc and Priceline Group contribute to about 5% of Google advertising income, by some estimates.

This facilitated-booking strategy is similar to the one followed by TripAdvisor. For about a year the user-reviews giant has been rolling out Instant Booking, in which it faciliates metasearch transactions to keep users within its interface.

Google faces a similar challenge to the one facing TripAdvisor in getting hotels and hotel chains to participate in its instant booking tool.

None of the major US hotel chains appears to be participating in Google’s scheme so far — with only independents popping up in Tnooz searches. TripAdvisor has struggled, only landing Marriott, Choice and Accor so far.

Google as an OTA-lite

A search today for hotels in Washington, D.C., turned up Hotel Rouge, a property in the Kimpton chain recently acquired by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG).

Google instant booking hotel rouge

Clicking on the option to book directly with the hotel formerly took customers to Kimpton’s website to finish the transaction.

But now users are sent to a Google booking page.

Google instant booking

Once a user selects a room, they share their contact information for receiving a confirmation email from the hotel directly.

google hotel instant booking metasearch

The user then enters credit card information, if they haven’t already provided that to Google Wallet.

google hotel instant booking

Google’s hotel tool completes the purchase within its interface:

google hotel metasearch instant booking

It was unclear who was helping Google interact with the hotel booking systems.

When asked, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, which has more than 20,000 independent hotel customers for its central reservation systems software, said about the Google effort:

“We are powering the backend only for our hotel customers.”

If Sabre is helping Google with hotel metasearch nationwide, it would be a surprising turnabout.

When Google was attempting to launch a metasearch tool for flights by purchasing ITA Software, an airfare technology company, Sabre was a member of the lobbying group FairSearch that attempted to stop the search giant.

But cooperation may be in the air.

Earlier today Sabre revealed its was in beta-testing with Google on a new commission-based (not pay-per click) model for letting hotels receive bookings via visitors using organic search in Google search and Maps.

If Sabre decides to also market Google’s instant booking feature, it may be able to convince many of the 20,000 or so independent hotels that use its central reservation system to sign up.

Google tested instant booking through mobile first

Nicolas Ward, president of a Koddi, a Dallas startup that helps hotels maximize the Google hotel distribution channel, said in an interview:

“There have been full-on-Google transactions on mobile for a couple of years through Wallet, though their exposure has been pretty limited.

It wasn’t until April this year that we saw a fully-on-Google transaction interface for desktop users.

But that was for limited offers and you had to use Google Wallet, which meant its rate would have to be at a significant discount.

Another difference back then: Tourico Holidays was heavily featured as the provider. Today the offers are for regular hotel rates at a variety of hotels.

There are also some smaller interface changes from that layout to today’s design.”

Ward was the first to notice Google’s new interface and write about it today on the Koddi Hotel Price Ads blog.

It was 14 months ago that Google licensed Room 77’s hotel booking technology, which included the concept of keeping users within the desktop user experience.

ANALYSIS: Hotel pricing mechanisms need a direct approach

MID-JUNE: TripAdvisor nabs Marriott for Instant Booking, stock jumps 14%

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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. Linda Pankhurst

    Do you know when Google will launch their 10% commission on completed reservations (advertising for Hotels and small accommodation businesses)?

  2. Laurren

    Hi Sean, thanks for this article!
    I think it’ll be really good for hotels to drive more traffic and booking directly. As google software is not only based on paid mode for websites, the natural ranking of some hotels could increase and they might save a lot of time and resource, and reduce the spending on tripadvisor and other similar websites.

  3. Thomas

    Hi Sean,
    Is there an update ready?
    has/Is It likely to be introduced in Europe/Denmark?
    Thank you for a great article/blog

  4. Zene


    Excellent article. I am having trouble listing my hotel on Google. I see the + priceline rates listed in other local hotels and that you can book thru their Google+ page; do you know how I can do this as well?
    Kindest regards and thanks,

    Owner, Cristal Azul Boutique Hotel

  5. ramakrishna

    Is it available in India ?

  6. Technology And Data Are Spurring A Clash Of Travel Titans | TechCrunch

    […] say “OTA”?).  And Google, not one to miss out on trillion-dollar industries, quietly released a direct booking feature of its own. We’re talking about the same company that has built more B2B marketing […]

  7. Michelle

    Hi Sean,
    I represent a large hotel in Ontario, Canada and am curious as to how hotels can get listed on this new service, and available for bookings the same way Hotel Rouge is?
    Thank you.

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Hi Michelle,
      I regret to say that Google has not set up an extranet to help hoteliers get on the service. They are only testing, and only working with hotels that are users of Sabre Hospitality Solutions products right now. As soon as we hear more, we’ll let you know.

  8. Motels will loose out

    This is not good for motels or hotels. I currently pay 15% commission to OTA’s on 60% of the room nights at my 20 room motel. All that Google will do is become another OTA which means the remaining 20% organic business I recieve will also be liable for 15% commission. They wont go for the pay per click model, why would they when they can recieve greater revenue through commission. All they have to do is acquire and integrate a booking site to Google. These sites simply steal the business motels and hotels already had and sell it back to them. How long until the 15% commission becomes 20% then 25% and upwards?! It does not matter what moteliers do they are caught up in this tax and with Google joining the game its now impossible to avoid. I dont mind paying 10 – 15% commission on 50% of the business but beyond that its just not viable.. Makes it very hard for small properties to make a profit and put food on the table. BOOK DIRECT and keep the money in your local community!!

    • Jos

      First, OTA commissions are the same as a Value Added Tax; it is ADDED to your net, not deducted (i.e: you bank net not gross), everyone collect it & pays it ,so don’t get hung up about it.

      Second, Hoteliers need to continue informing/encourage their market to buy direct as OTAs (like the traditional wholesaler) should only be used for exposure for as long as you need it; they are not to be considered as long term partners. The end game is direct bookings to your business so your S&M strategy must be geared to that end and social media is the key (expose the OTAs for what they are is a good start). I think Google’s entry into the game is great, it will compete with the other two giant rip off OTAs.

    • Liz Ward

      The advice I give small tourism businesses is to treat their Google Business and TripAdvisor listings with top priority and ensure they claim them and update them. Then nurture the review community around them i.e. respond to every review on TripAdvisor, email guests and ask them to leave a review.

      Then as Jos has said, implement a clear social media strategy that is focused on shareable content and one or two social media platforms and learn how to work them very well.

      Education is the foundation piece for the SMTE sector to be successful online and the learning needs to be continual because the technology and distribution landscape keeps changing.

  9. Wouter

    More chances for hoteliers to get direct Bookings. If the google local business listings up their game, the smaller hotels can even build their site within Google. Smart to get more pressure on the auction of the long tail.

  10. Liz Ward

    I remember five or so years ago when they first integrated OTA listings into Google search and we were talking to Google about how the SMTEs could be included using the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse database, without being contracted with an OTA. They were really interested because they wanted the interesting, regional products, but it was too much work for them to integrate niche booking systems. So it’s interesting to see how their strategy is evolving.

    It’s an interesting consumer dynamic that Google is testing with this strategy. We know consumers enjoy an efficient and intuitive user experience so keeping them in the one interface can help with that, however we also know they like to shop around, especially for significant travel purchases and they’ll go to many websites before making a decision and they’ll rely on consumer reviews in the majority of instances to confirm their decision before they book. Google can offer reviews, but I think it will be some time and will need additional integrated data sources before the majority of consumers are confident to book at a Google point of sale.

  11. Ralph

    Is it Cost per acquisition? And if so, what is it?

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      We don’t know. We continue to try to track that down.
      TripAdvisor is between 6% and 12% but typically 10%, lets say. That’s probably a comparison worth keeping in mind.

      As one industry insider has pointed out to me: Probably it won’t be using a last-click attribution model. More likely they’ll be doing any booking in the last 3-7 days. Or maybe one site does last-click and another does 3 days.

  12. Anil Varghese

    “… TripAdvisor has struggled, only landing Marriott, Choice and Accor so far.”
    TripAdvisor needs to separate the Business Listing fee requirement for Price Ads, which make the cost-per-conversion unreasonably higher. Most of the independent hotels we are working with, stay away from this awesome feature due to this.
    Google is much behind TripAdvisor in integrating the hundreds of IBE providers, so will take a long time to reach a level where hotels see benefit. Nevertheless it’s interesting times ahead in the direct booking fight.

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Yes. All the uphill work is not on the tech side, it’s on the deal-making side. It’s not clear what other partners behind the scenes that Google might work with for hotel content… As one industry expert i spoke with pointed out, CRS-direct is a tedious route. But maybe that’s also a “tell” about their strategy…

    • Francesco Astolfi

      Google is behind, it’s true. But Google is Google, and they need to recover centricity in the traveller’s buying process. The only way to do that is to enter in the distribution war. In the Travel Apps era, in which travellers are starting their buying process directly within an app (Booking, Tripadvisor..), selling clicks on the web just for navigational queries (hotels brand name) is not enough anymore.

  13. Gavin Pereira

    What everyone out there needs to realise (esp. Hoteliers) Google is not doing this for nothing, there will be a fee, it may not come now but it will come. At the end of the day all distributors be it meta, OTA, search engines are out to make money. Hoteliers should factor in commission costs when pricing and working on their costs.

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Thanks! So true.
      But hoteliers also stand to gain. Improves conversion rates and user experience – especially on mobile. Independent hoteliers often can’t optimize on mobile for either user experience or mobile-first search globally, all languages, which is where Google might eventually head.

      We don’t yet have an idea of the business model (assuming CPA) and how the fees compare to TripAdvisor Instant Booking.

      One hotel industry analyst I spoke with is wondering if it is adopting the same bizarre 12% for 25% of impressions | `5% for 50% of impressions model of Brand X to keep from cannibalizing their CPC metasearch product…

  14. Oz Har Adir

    This is a smart step in making meta search more transaction focused (comm model) and less reliant on Priceline and Expedia.


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