Google introduces new travel features and Microsoft launches travel app

In case you were too busy over the holiday period to keep up with the latest travel marketing news, we’ve got a roundup of everything that mattered most over the past month.

Google has been busy introducing a range of new features across its platforms, aimed at boosting those travel conversion rates in 2018. Meanwhile, one of its old rivals has released a new travel platform that could give Google a run for its money.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Google adds price alerts to flights and hotel search

According to recent studies conducted by Google, travellers are most concerned about getting the best deal on their travel expenses – more than any other type of discretionary purchase.

With this in mind, Google has introduced a number of tools to help people get the best possible price on their flights and hotels.

Google - track hotel prices screenshots
Source: Google Blog

First of all, travellers can get price alerts for tickets and hotel rooms if they want to wait until prices drop before they make their booking. This is a good feature for any price comparison tool like Google Flights, but what happens when prices are already somewhere close to the lowest bracket?

If people wait to book, they could actually miss out on the best price available.

So Google has also introduced tips for people looking to book flights and hotel rooms to give them an idea of whether they should book now or wait.

Google travel tips - prices are less than usual
Source: Google Blog

Google uses machine learning to track the average price of tickets and rooms, which allows it to tell users if prices are currently lower than usual. Likewise, if prices are steady throughout the search period users are looking at, Google will tell them not to expect further price drops.

Either way, the wording is designed to get more travellers booking – a win for Google and the travel brands it features.

Google Trips offers discounts on the local sights

Once people have booked their tickets, Google turns its attention to helping them get the best experience from their budget. Google Trips now has a Discounts feature that allows travellers to access and browse deals for tickets, tours, attractions and other local sights.

Google Trips - discount feature
Source: Google Blog

With deals on tours and other attractions, travellers can plan and book their activities – both before and during their trips. This helps extend the booking process beyond the first flight, meaning people travelling in the area still have a high conversion potential.

Google testing third-party reviews for hotel business listings

Towards the end of December, Google started showing third-party reviews in hotel listings in Google Business Profile and local listings. This means reviews from TripAdvisor, Expedia and other online travel sources feature more prominently in the review section for hotels.

Google tests third party reviews for hotels

Users can select to view reviews from “All”, Google only or any of the third-party sources featured.

While we shouldn’t make presumptions about any of this, Google appears to be testing third-party reviews as further pressure mounts over how it formats travel search results. More on this shortly.

Microsoft launches new travel planning app

Google isn’t the only tech giant that wants to corner a chunk of the travel market; Microsoft has a new platform to compete with tools like Google Trips. Outings is available on iOS and Android (but not Windows Phone) and it’s very much a direct competitor of Google Trips.

Microsoft Outings travel planning app
Source: Microsoft

The platform acts as a discovery tool for people who are planning trips, looking for inspiration or trying to find things in their area as they travel. As things stand, it’s only available in the US but hopefully Microsoft will expand the platform and its features to bring some added competition to Google.

Read about our travel marketing experience here

Pressure mounts on Google

Speaking of competition, it seems the pressure is mounting on Google over how it operates its travel search platforms. This time it’s not the EU putting pressure on Google, but US regulators that are scrutinising its conduct – particularly on the hotel booking side of things.

According to various reports from US publications like The Wall Street Journal and Skift, investigations are already underway to determine whether Google is unlawfully stifling competition in the travel industry. US authorities won’t confirm this one way or the other until information is released to the public.

Either way, talk of antitrust cases against Google are always something to pay attention to. The outcome can affect the way the search giant operates – as we’ve recently seen with Google Shopping in the EU – and could potentially open the door to smaller competitors.

So that’s the travel marketing news that mattered most over the festive period, you can expect more announcements over the early months of 2018. Keep up-to-date by following us on social media and get in touch if you need any advice on getting more from your travel search marketing strategy this year.

Michelle Hill profile picture
Michelle Hill

Michelle joined Vertical Leap in 2011 as Marketing Manager, having spent the previous 15 years of her marketing career in the recruitment, leisure and printing industries. Her passions include dogs, yoga, walking, cycling, the beach, mountains and tapas.

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