What Google Acquisitons Mean for B&B Marketing
It looks like a power struggle is about to become more heated in the online travel marketing industry. Google is a building an online toolset to compete with other marketing channels like online travel agencies (Expedia, Hotels.com, etc.), travel review sites like Trip Advisor and directories like bedandbreakfast.com.
In April of 2011, after an eight-month anti-trust investigation, the US Justice Department cleared the way for Google to acquire the airline distribution software company ITA. There were some regulatory strings attached to the approval. Google is required to continue developing and licensing the software to other companies and to erect a firewall that will prevent Google from obtaining its competitors’ sensitive information, among other requirements.
The ITA acquisition gave Google the tools to combine search with live rate and availability information like the Global Distribution System (GDS). The first seemingly insignificant beta test sites, Google Flights and Google Hotel Finder , provided a glimpse of how Google might plan to leverage ITA technology in ways we never imagined. ITA rate and availability interface can now be merged with Google’s other features like the Calendar, Maps, Google+ and the Android mobile phone to create an unbelievable booking experience for guests.
With the acquisition of Frommer's Travel Guide completed in August 2012, there can be no mistake about the direction and purpose of Google’s travel marketing initiative. The search engine is forming a circle around every aspect of online travel marketing in an attempt to own the customer, dominate travel marketing and profit from travel advertisers. This power play could mean tough times for those marketing channels that innkeepers love to hate like B&B directories, GDS providers and social networks.
Innkeepers may find it even more challenging to compete for less on-screen real estate in the future. Higher competition may mean higher pay-per-click fees and the need for even more video and SEO friendly content. Retaining a unique identity and owning your customer may be equally challenging. Innkeepers that differentiate their inns through unique brand identity, personal service, location and a great overall value proposition will be the winners in this new and more challenging environment. Those who have less brand identity and no online booking presence will find it difficult to complete.