Google has been investing in the travel industry’s lucrative market for a while now, causing apprehension amongst those in the field.
After announcing Google Flights in 2011 and releasing its final flight meta search engine in 2015, directly on the Google search results page, Google also added hotel instant bookings to its search results page in July 2015. By acquiring travel tech companies like ITA Software and competing directly with many sectors of the industry, experts predicted dark times for OTAs and travel agencies. However despite these initial fears, Google has still not reached profitability and has yet to outshine the industry’s big players.
A Travel Assistant App as a Trojan Horse
Last March Google launched “Destinations on Google”, a mobile friendly trip planner conveniently integrated within web search results. This addition offers flight and hotel bookings, suggested itineraries, travel guides, and useful tips. At this point in time, 85% of leisure travelers are using their smartphones while on a trip and the download rate of travel apps has reached an average of 15 per person. Taking this into account, Google has recently announced the upcoming release of their new travel app named Trips. As a fullstack travel assistant, Google’s latest “all-in-one” app will gather everything travelers need before their trip and at their destination: location suggestions, booking features, user booking details, travel alerts, travel guides, maps, practical destination information and more.
Here’s how it will work for your clients:
- Google will retrieve the bookings that are on your email, and automatically import them into the Trips mobile app.
- If the trip only contains transportation, Google will sell additional travel-related products such as airport transfers, tours, activities, and suggest accommodations.
- Thanks to big data technology and all of the information that Google collects from its users, they will be able to predict your clients’ next trip and target them with specific customized offers.
Own Your Client in the Mobile Space
While having a booking app is not always profitable for travel brands, with the exception of major players and niche travel companies, an itinerary or travel assistant app is no longer just “nice to have”. It’s now all about customer retention and travel agencies who are facing competitors like Google with their new app, or Facebook and their new travel features. Even airlines who are offering accommodation and to a lesser extent airports, destinations (DMOs), hotels, etc.
Going mobile is not as straight forward as launching a website. This is primarily because of the technology involved, managing sensible data and providing extensive travel content. Different options are available depending on your company profile and budget:
Building your own app
PROS: Full control over the user experience, the features, and the branding.
CONS: Budget (requires a full team of developers, designers, project managers), as well as time to market, in-house resources, maintenance and sustainability.
PROS: Free of charge.
CONS: A generic/unbranded app with itinerary data fed exclusively from the GDS, no customized features, no control on merchandising or ancillaries, and no mobile retention.
Partnering with a mobile travel technology company
PROS: A branded and customized solution based on proven core technology, innovation, reasonable cost (as development costs are shared across clients), and no commitment.
CONS: Not very many tech companies focus on mobile in travel, let alone ones with a proven track record.