Google is increasing its presence in the travel sphere with the launch of its Hotel Finder feature.
The online search giant has been encroaching on major travel search engines Kayak, Expedia, Priceline, and Travelzoo following the approval of its acquisition of ITA flight search software for $700 million in April.
While the profit margins in online air reservations are thought to be very narrow, online hotel booking has larger revenue potential. Entering this field is directly competing with the established industry giants. Google is currently fighting antitrust investigations as to whether it favors their own products over existing websites.
ITA software is not being used in the Hotel Finder, which is currently in the experimental stage. In the first incarnation, the finder is only available for hotels in the U.S. but rumors say it will expand internationally if it proves to be a success.
Describing the product as an “early experiment,” Google introduced the product on its Inside Search Blog last Thursday. The new service has received positive reviews for its design and additional features. The map feature allows users to draw a square around the area they would like to stay in. Google also highlights the most popular areas in a city.
We reached out to Priceline, Orbitz and Travelzoo, but as of press time the companies have not commented about Google’s entry into the market.
Google’s policy is that it does not practice favoritism for Web sites but offers users the best results, regardless of whether it is a Google service. Currently, the Hotel Finder links to hotel search sites, including Expedia or Hotels.com for booking reservations if they are Google advertisers. And advertisers only pay if a user clicks on a price listing. The Hotel Finder also links directly to a hotel’s website. Hotel price ads show up on Google Maps and in the main search engine but are not featured in the Hotel Finder.
By Lily J. Kosner for PeterGreenberg.com.
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