Dependence on Google, the world’s largest search engine, will likely intensify due to the event of Covid-19 and the firm may use this chance to leverage the market in the online travel space.
The stance of Google has been an on-going deliberation over the past few years as more initiatives related to travel have been added to its portfolio; the firm is the main rival for online travel giants Expedia and Booking.com.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) predominantly rely on Google to drive traffic to their websites and Google benefits from OTAs and hotels using its advertising services, but at this moment in time, OTAs need Google whilst Google does not necessarily need them.
A series of online travel services are already available
Google now operates an array of services, including Google Flights, a flight meta-search product, Google Hotel Ads, a hotel meta-search product and a vacation rental meta-search platform. GlobalData’s global consumer survey Q3 2019 found that 32% of global travellers are likely to book with a price comparison website, including that of Skyscanner or Google Flights.
OTAs were originally the primary platform for holiday bookings, but following the hot dispute on refunds and cancellations, direct bookings may gather greater traction in the future of travel. The perks of a price comparison website such as Google Flights is accessibility; the engine searches OTAs and airline websites for the most appropriate deals, the customer receives this and then is taken directly to the booking page of the requested option. If a cancellation was to occur, the customer would know to directly contact the airline or hotel provider as this is the exact location where the purchase was made, an area where major confusion is currently being caused.
Aspirations to become an OTA are not confirmed but reliance will be greater
Google is not an OTA and the firm has not announced any comments on the fact of becoming one any time soon. The fact is that all travel intermediaries are threatened by this firm; during this crisis, Google has also worked in lieu with destinations, governments, tour operators and travel agents to assist in operations during Covid-19. Competition will be dramatically intensified post-pandemic and customers will be looking to use a trusted and fully operational service. Google possesses global visibility and is an easily recognisable brand. Because of this, the company may move further in to the online travel space, which will be a worrying concept for its potential competitors.