Free for a while – Streetview guides by OTAs in prime spot on Google Maps
Hotels have been recording Google Streetview walk-throughs for a while now – it makes marketing sense as a cool showcase of a property.
It’s not a cheap exercise, inevitably – hotels have to work with Google Business Photos to get the required content and formatting.
Best Western is probably the most high profile so far, admitting in January this year that almost $2 million would eventually be spent on capturing images of around 2,200 hotels in its portfolio by the end of 2014.
Obviously some hotel chains see the investment up-front as bringing enough value further down the line to consumers in the purchase funnel, as potential guests ponder whether to select a particular property.
But why would an online travel agency or tour operator, for example, also commit to such a programme?
A UK-based luxury tour operator, Destinology, clearly sees the benefit after working with Google (and spending two months) to produce 40 Streetview guides for hotels on its list of properties.
The first of the series (three hotels in Dubai) were made live last week and give visitors to the Destinology website the chance to walk around a property, check out some of the features, etc.
Properties in Mauritius, Maldives and Abu Dhabi will be added in the coming weeks, with a second shoot planned for September.
What makes this initiatives interesting beyond just improving the content available on a tour operator’s website, so users can browse around a hotel for a bit, is what is happening at the other end… on Google.
Google Maps has slowly been evolving for a year or so now, with a larger emphasis placed on the content available once a user dives into a particular area of a map.
The horizontal navigation bar which appears at the foot of the viewing window now features links to photo galleries on Picasa (Google-owned, of course) and a hotel chain’s website, for example.
But, interestingly, one part of the Destinology initiative means that its own Streetviews of properties are placed in a prime spot on Google Maps for users to access pretty easily.
Here is The One & Only The Palm property in Dubai:
Any user clicking on the first navigation box will be shown the Destinology-produced Streetview of the hotel (as shown at top of this article).
The key element here, as Destinology confirms, is that this exposure is NOT a commercial agreement between the operator and Google, perhaps somewhat surprising given that every other type of placement by a travel brand to get users to visit a website via Google comes by way of keyword-bidding or other type of partnership where money changes hands.
It remains to be seen if Google’s somewhat unusually laissez-faire attitude to prime placement is simply to get more content associated with maps (Destinology has obviously invested reasonably heavily so far to get the Streetviews produced).
But would it also be a surprise if a new type of bidding process emerges somewhere down the line, as other intermediaries start producing similar content and also want users to get a handy route through to their pages?
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in early-2017.