Google is apparently testing out direct hotel booking. The company is seeking to have hotel searchers book and pay via Google rather than handing off the lead to a third party travel site or hotel site. This was first pointed out by travel news site Tnooz.
Other than the example provided in the Tnooz article (a Washington DC Kimpton/IHG property) I was unable to duplicate the direct booking functionality, despite numerous hotel searches in different cities.
After locating a hotel on Google, users are typically taken to a hotel site or online travel agency to complete a booking. Below is an example booking flow for the IHG-owned Ink48 hotel in New York — the highlighted “book” button takes you to the hotel’s website to complete the reservation:
In the new (and perhaps experimental) flow, the user is asked to provide contact and payment details directly to Google. The example below is the Hotel Rouge in Washington DC, which was the property identified in the Tnooz article:
This move is potentially controversial because turns Google into an online travel agency or its equivalent rather than simply being a marketing vehicle for hospitality companies. Google would apparently need to convince hotel chains and management companies to participate in the program, which may or may not be difficult depending on the model.
Most hoteliers would prefer direct bookings rather than through a third party site or aggregator. In this scenario it’s not clear whether Google takes a percentage of the transaction or charges this as a click/lead.