Google is working on fixing issues with purchasing vacation packages

Skift take

When Google perfects the search for vacation packages, it could be a very compelling product as some have tried, but few do in any meaningful way. It’s all part of Google’s steadily and on-going increase in the travel ecommerce ecosystem.

Dennis Schaal, Skift

For anyone who has ever purchased a vacation package online where flight and hotel are bundled together, you will know that this can be a tedious exercise.

You can first find a vacation package on Expedia, for example, then you will need to determine at least two things: is it cheaper to book the package than to buy the flight and hotel separately, then you will want to search for see if another provider, such as Virgin Vacations, has a better deal.

The process can be frustrating as there are so many variables and the rates change frequently as well.

Enter Google, which is testing the vacation rentals meta-search, where users are transferred to third parties for bookings in the UK and Germany in its Destinations category since spring 2017.

Speaking at the Skift Global Forum last month, Richard Holden, vice president of travel products at Google, said efforts will expand in several ways.

“We are now offering it in the UK, Germany and the US,” Holden said. “I would always say that it is not important in its display at the moment; it is quite buried in the experience of destinations. We are currently working on the next version of this to make it bigger and Germany is actually probably the first market we are focusing on the most simply because Germany is a very large package travel market as a whole. .

Skift saw the product on Google in several forms: on desktop in the Destinations section and in the Travel Guide category, and at the very top of the page under Destinations in Google Germany or lower under paid ads in Google US Desktop.

But, the vacation package finder product, which is also on mobile, is indeed becoming more and more important, although it is far from perfect, as you would expect with such a complex feature. But Google is already tackling some of the weak spots in vacation package research, albeit in a rudimentary fashion so far.

Holden explained the thinking of Google.

“But we still think it’s a great opportunity from a transparency standpoint,” Holden said. “Users just don’t know where to find this data. There isn’t a good place to go to understand all the packages that are on offer and from a transparency point of view we also try to show people what this package trip would look like and what the price of the components looks like. so they can compare properly there. “

On mobile in the US, we entered Germany vacation packages on Google and found 102 options for trips to Berlin, for example, as well as a widget to narrow down dates and destinations, as well as maps, descriptions. equipment, photos, ratings and reviews.

An Expedia vacation package for a Wow Air flight and a 3-night stay at the Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm listed on Google.

For Berlin, we found several Expedia flight and hotel packages, including those for a three-night Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm-Wow Air package from New York in early November for $ 1,175 per person; a Park Inn by Radisson Berlin-Wow Air package for $ 1,061; and the Steigenberger Hotel Berlin-Wow Air package for $ 1,157.

With each Expedia package price, Google has listed the flight and hotel reservation price separately from Wow Air and Agodo or Priceline, for example.

The main value proposition of packages is that the traveler is supposed to get a huge discount, as airlines and hotels can fill seats or beds without disclosing the price of individual components, as the traveler only sees the price. of the package. The hotel or airline can therefore offer discounts without diluting their published rates.

Ironically, however, the differences between the prices of the packages and those when someone books the individual components separately that we saw on Google were not very large, sometimes non-existent. For example, the Expedia package for the Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm-Wow Air package was $ 1,175 compared to $ 1,173 when the flight was booked on Wow Air and the hotel on

As noted, Google’s vacation package research is largely a work in progress. We would expect to find significant reductions in the prices of vacation packages in the future compared to booking flights and hotels separately.

But Google will fix the issues, and the ability to compare vacation packages from one provider to another, as well as determining the discount against individual components in one place will be a compelling premise as there isn’t a whole lot of easy ways to do it today.

Separately, Holden said Google is now providing consumers with a way to search for vacation rentals outside of the United States in major metropolitan areas.

“We struggled for a while as to what was the right way to incorporate these offerings,” Holden said. “We are currently offering it outside of the US as a hotel search filter in major metropolitan areas. There is content that you can filter to see other accommodation or vacation rental content. Typically today the content we have there looks like an apartment, that is most hotel type properties, although in the near future we will be moving to a wider set of properties as well. We think it’s extremely relevant.

About Brad S. Fulton

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