Published on Thursday, October 6, 2011
Google has tried to reassure the travel industry that it was not encroaching on its business.
Head of travel UK and Ireland Nigel Huddleston told delegates: “We have no plans to enter the booking stage, but we do increasingly play a role in the sharing and experiencing stages.
“Many people in this room are already our clients and we have mutually beneficial interests. Our priority is to answer traveller queries quickly and efficiently with the most relevant response we can and ultimately lead them to transact with you. We want to create a circle of Googly happiness.”
But Huddleston then went on to unveil new hotel and flight search technology which prompted some concerns from the industry audience.
Google Hotel Finder and Flight Search have already been launched in the US and Google plans to roll them out internationally.
Using maps and calendars, customers can search the best flights and are then directed to the relevant airline.
Huddleston denied that this would compete against online travel agents.
“OTAs are really important partners. We have no plans to enter that space. We are providing the information, not facilitating that booking,” he said.
When asked how flight searches were prioritised, he said it was not based on a pricing model.
“It’s done by a combination of the price and timing. It’s not done by payment mechanism.”
Huddleston revealed some trends about online bookings, forecasting that one third of the world’s travel sales will be made online by 2012.
“UK consumers are some of the most mature and sophisticated when it come to buying travel online,” he said.
“Nearly 90% of travel buying decisions are influenced by online, whether it’s at the research or booking stage.”
According to Google statistics on trip research, travellers look at an average of 15 sites, at least twice, and spend an average of two hours 24 minutes researching.
Those who go on to make a booking visit an average of 26 sites for over four hours in total.
Huddleston also warned the industry that they need to have a mobile presence or will miss out.
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The recent insolvency of Low Cost Travel Group, one of the large players in the travel industry had a big impact on the travelers, hotels and all related players from both wholesale & retail arms. There were about 27,000 people on a holiday who had booked through the company comprised of a €200 million wholesale arm and €500 million OTA / retail arm.