Google says it’s getting serious about services for travellers. Now, can it execute?

By David Walker


Posted on May 15, 2019

Google is upgrading its travel product in a bid to offer users better trip research and coordination, and to raise its income from advertisers.

The company said on Tuesday it was rolling out simplified free trip planning at google.com/travel, linking Google’s Flights, Hotels and Trips services on desktop. The services have already been rolled out on mobile devices. Despite the URL, the service itself is still called Trips, because google.com/trips goes to the company’s Android and IOS travel app.

“As you plan a trip, your research and reservations will be organised for you in Trips,” says Google’s head of travel product management, Richard Holden, in a post on Google’s blog.

The company has also begun automatically adding some trip reservations sent to users of the company’s Gmail email service and adding them to a user’s Google Calendar. That move is easy for Google because it already scans users’ emails.

Google trips

Holden said that the revised service would also allow users to add bookings manually within a few weeks. The service has also improved its time-line feature, and will display updates for flights if you track their prices in a Google search. And it offers information such as “suggested day plans, popular restaurants around your hotel and events happening during your dates”, says Holden.

The company is also adding travel features to its Google Maps service.

Holden admitted at the launch that in the past “we haven’t done a good job” of connecting users’ travel-related activity, reported Bloomberg.

The new service may help Google earn more referral income from advertisers such as airlines and hotels, though prices for such ads have fallen in recent years.

It also pits the company against the popular TripIt service, which already automatically processes bookings forwarded to a dedicated email address, and which can be integrated into Google Calendar. TripIt abandoned ads in 2016, but its US$49-a-year TripIt Pro service brings a slew of extra services, such as alerting users to late-changing flight details.

TripIt is owned by corporate travel company Concur, a subsidiary of German software group SAP. Google Travel should have access to similar resources, but Google’s ability to execute with focus has slowly come under question, as it has cut a long series of services over the years.

Other players in the trip coordination business include:
• TripCase, a TripIt rival owned by flight-booking leader Sabre
• Expensify, which integrates travel with expenses
• Pana, which focuses on corporate travel