The conversations about where the travel industry is headed often converge at Google. Online travel players are always anticipating next moves of the search giant. At the recently concluded Phocuswright India 2017, Rob Torres, Managing Director, Travel at Google engaged in a discussion with Lorraine Sileo, Senior Vice President, Research at Phocuswright about Google’s recent steps in travel and how they will shape up in future.
Over the past year, Trips has been the biggest travel product to come out from the search giant. Rob expressed his happiness on how widely the product has been adopted for the functionality it offers. However, it doesn’t stop here. As many of us have been guessing, Google is looking to add the booking feature for activities available in the app. According to him, it is a natural extension as people love the recommendations they get on the app but have to go elsewhere to book the activities. The partners have also expressed their interest in the same so that they can be a part of it and connect with new customers.
Along with Trips, Google is also betting big on voice. While Google Home is yet to find its way into many homes, things already look quite positive. Voice activated search will change how we ask questions and it would affect travel as well.
Rob shared that the adoption of voice search is on a constant rise and the younger users are increasingly relying on it as a preferable medium. As machine learning continues to work its magic in the background, the likes of Google Home and Amazon Echo will find more roles to play in the travel industry. From cars to phones, the improved connectivity will allow brands to better understand their customers and thus offer a more personalised experience. However, he also pointed out that there is a long way to go before we reach there. Mobile will be a major driver but before that, a lot of brands, especially in travel, have to catch up on the capabilities of smartphones to offer the users a great experience.
Developments like Hotel Ads and Flights have always been debatable topic in the industry. Responding to queries about the same, Rob claimed that the Hotel Ads product isn’t really cannibalising on their partners and is only an extension of what they excel at, search.
“We are still a big search engine helping people find what they want, while also helping our partners. The Hotel Ads product actually does a much better job of passing qualified leads to our partners and these leads convert better because of more information available to the users upfront,” he said.
According to him, ‘Flights’ also serves as a similar bridge between the users and their partners. The original search result of 10 blue links wasn’t getting the job done anymore and they had to evolve from there to make sure they add value to the chain. For the near future, Flights, Hotel Ads and Trips are the major Google product to keep an eye on.
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