February 28, 2011

Google reaching out to major hotel brands and CRS providers


Google first connected with OTAs, such as Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity and Hotels.com, to introduce their application programming interface that would allow for real-time sharing of rates and availability on Google Maps. Now they’re in the process of contacting CRS providers and major brands to offer the same access.

A new Google Maps feature that aggregates real-time hotel rates and availability has passed a seven-week beta test and has gone live, and at least one Central Reservation System provider is on a global road show informing hotel clients of their appearance on the new distribution channel.

Distribution experts still are hypothesizing about what kind of effect the search-engine giant will have on where travelers book hotel rooms, but some say the program should be embraced by hoteliers who don’t want to lose bookings to online travel agencies. Brands have taken notice and are discussing whether to alter their distribution strategies.

Google’s newest feature, implemented earlier this month, adds average price and availability to hotel search results in Google Maps, which appears above organic search results. Next to the individual hotel’s average price, users can click a dropdown arrow to view a small box listing several different places users can book that hotel and the different prices at each respective site.

“Only Google knows how many people actually click on the dropdown menu, but they did a pilot program. It cost Google money—real money—programming time, development time,” said Max Starkov, chief e-business strategist at Hospitality eBusiness Strategies. “And after the pilot program, they have decided to offer it to major brands. Obviously Google has seen traffic. Obviously they have seen real revenue.”

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