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By Phil Butler

If you missed the news at the beginning of April, Google is now experimenting with flight and hotel packages in the UK and Germany. Speaking at the first European Skift Forum, Oliver Heckmann, Vice President Travel and Shopping at Google Inc., said that although searchers will be shown bundled packages, they will still be able to “buy the individual components separately or together.”

The idea of package bundles is not new – Kayak has attempted it – but Google does bring something new on the market with a dynamic product that counts on intelligent algorithms rather than displaying flight and accommodation packages put together by OTAs and other operators.  This is Google’s most recent move in metasearch, but the company has a strong footprint in this field since launching its Google Hotel Finder product in July 2011. Even in its infancy, this was a tool with unparalleled potential:

“Google Hotel Search filters work like a charm. Price, popularity, rating, stars, combinations of prices and etc., the interface is slick. And, the hotel displays are some of the nicest anywhere online. Bigger images, and not just blurry ones (but they could be bigger), owner description where you can actually read it, address, phone number, pertinent stuff up front, blah blah. Then there is what I call the money maker – Google’s newest ad serving device – Hotel Finder agnostic (almost) booking suggestion,” I wrote back in 2011 for Argophilia Travel News. Google’s incremental moves toward “click dominance” for hotels proceeded rationally from 2011 onwards. Then, in 2015 Google silently added instant booking for hotels emulating in some respects TripAdvisor’s superpower.

This is was a step companies like Kayak and other players feared and a move search engine experts like Mihaela Lica, Pamil Visions PR’s CEO and Founder, predicted and warned about many times: “What in theory enhances Google searchers’ experience, is designed to kill competition.”

Back when players like Powerset, Hakia, and so many others, competed to deliver a “Google killer” there was hope that the Mountain View giant would not operate from a monopolistic stance for long. But the search engine war ended, or better yet, shifted with the dawn of big data, which is the apparatus that drives metasearch. Google and other players are slowly distancing from traditional ads, including Google’s own AdWords. Fast-forwarding to 2017, it’s easy to imagine the OTAs and other metasearch entities assessing Google’s moves like those of a giant, hungry octopus snatching every morsel of profit from the oceans of travel.

The “2017: The State of Metasearch” report by Fastbooking, complete with a compelling infographic, reveals the gist of Google metasearch gains. For example, in click volume progress alone Google has now eclipsed even TripAdvisor.

Another important finding of the report reveals just why Google is now experimenting with bundle packages, constantly developing its metasearch product: “Since the fourth quarter of 2016, Metasearch has grown to become the most important advertising channel for hotels outpacing even AdWords,” the study shows.

Fastbooking hopes to offer hoteliers enough data to take back the power for online distribution from the major digital players. But while they fight what is now known, TripAdvisor, Trivago, HotelsCombined and others will push back on Google’s efforts, creating new challenges for hoteliers. In the meanwhile, Fastbooking’s “2017: The State of Metasearch” report is an effective tool.

About Phil Butler

Phil Butler is a publisher, editor, and analyst who's also a partner at the travel PR firm, Pamil Visions. A widely cited expert on technology startups, digital marketing and PR, and Eastern Europe, he's contributed to media such as The Epoch Times, The Huffington Post, NEO, Travel Daily News, The Prague Post, Pravda, and many others worldwide. Phil is considered one of the pioneers in digital media and social as well. 

Contact: Phil Butler / 49 151 610 10958

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