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Google Makes New Push to Bolster Travel-Related Searches

Google may be commonly used as a verb for looking for information, but in the online travel world the technology giant isn’t a go-to destination like Expedia, Priceline and TripAdvisor.

Aiming to change that, Google will launch a more unified travel product to integrate flight and hotel search functions, while organising people’s travel plans and saving research. The new offerings, which were rolled out last year on smartphones and are now available on desktops, will be hosted at google.com/travel.

Alphabet’s Google also plans to “surface” more travel data on Google Maps, and incorporate hotel and restaurant reservations for customers who are logged on. Google made the announcement Tuesday at a marketing conference in San Francisco.

“What we’ve noticed over time is that trip planning is done over many weeks or many months,” said Richard Holden, Google’s vice president of travel product management. People tend to plan trips and peruse hotel and restaurant sites when they have time, he said, but often have no way to save their search results or flight queries.

“We’re already getting users coming to Google who are asking questions,” Holden said. “We frankly haven’t done a good job of connecting those sessions in the past.”

Google’s moves to bolster its position in travel is designed to drive further searches and potential “higher-qualified leads” for its partner companies, such as airlines and hotels — “so people will recognise Google as a place where I do travel research,” Holden said.

That could be a threat to Expedia Inc. and Booking Holdings Inc., which owns Priceline. At a company conference last year in Las Vegas, Expedia Chief Executive Officer Mark Okerstrom called Google his company’s most important rival. TripAdvisor Inc. also competes with Google in the travel search business.

Google primarily generates referral traffic although it does process some bookings on its own site for other travel merchants. Unlike travel agencies such as Expedia or Priceline, Google doesn’t directly sell travel products such as hotel rooms or airline tickets.

© 2019 Bloomberg

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