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The Rise and Fall of Google Travel Bookings

The Rise and Fall of Google Travel Bookings
Many of us can remember the years before the internet was such an integral and important part of our lives. During this time, travel agencies had the travel industry locked down. Anyone looking to plan a vacation would spend hours in these locations, thumbing through catalogues and brochures, and getting advice from trained agents.

Then, the internet arrived in our homes, and it wasn't too long before internet shopping became a thing. Soon, the travel business moved online as well. Online travel agencies (OTAs) are doing incredibly well in the internet age, and their continued success has brick-and-mortar agents worrying about their futures. But now even OTAs themselves are feeling under pressure as big tech giants enter the arena.

None other than Google has been metaphorically flipping over tables in the travel industry. And as one of the biggest brands in the world today, when Google moves, others pay attention.


As the world's biggest and most popular search engine service provider, Google is at the forefront of everything we do online. Google is even the verb we use to describe the process of searching for things on the internet — whether we're using it or not.

This role as the gatekeeper of the internet means Google has long had a finger in almost every online pie — including travel. Most of us start our vacation planning with a Google search, whether for flights, locations, or hotels. For a long time, this meant that online travel brands such as and Trivago paid Google vast sums of advertising revenue to ensure their websites appeared at, or near to, the top of its search result listings.

In 2018, online travel agents spent approximately $18 billion on internet ads and invested a third of its revenue back into online ads in the same period. However, Google recently came to a realization. All these travel companies work by bringing hotel and flight data together on their platforms and creating bespoke packages for their customers. There are few organizations more adept or experienced at processing data than Google itself, which prompted the tech giant to launch Google Travel in the early part of 2019.

"Our goal is to simplify trip planning by helping you quickly find the most useful information and pick up where you left off on any device," said Google in a press release. "We'll continue to make planning and taking trips easier with Google Maps, Google Search and — so you can get out and enjoy the world."  Now you can search for and browse flights, hotels, and package deals on Google itself, removing the need to visit a third-party site at all. Because it's Google's own platform, it can place its own offering above even the paid advertising.

In less than a year, online travel brands have already noticed a reduction in the amount of traffic they're seeing coming from Google. 

TripAdvisor,, and Expedia have all reported a slowdown in earnings and a plummeting of their stock prices — they're keen to lay much of the blame at the feet of Google Travel. Owning that top section of the search ranking means Google commands far more of the attention of travellers than another brand could hope to achieve.

In 2019 Google ramped up its activity in online travel with launching its Travel Hub, added flight check-in and hotel booking abilities to Google Assistant, attached lodging listings to its Maps function and created a search site for hotel availability by destination.

Then came the pandemic, which resulted in dwindling market share for OTAs, which rely heavily on Google Search advertising. A 60% drop in travel bookings amplified OTAs' existing concerns about the growing presence of Google in the market, and the obvious problematic nature of having to compete with their hosting search engine.


Google has shut down its "Book on Google" option for hotels as of May 25 2022 due to low usage from both partners and consumers.
"When we first launched Book on Google for hotels, we wanted to give users an easier way to complete their bookings, while also driving more conversions for our partners," says a Google spokesperson.

"But over time, we've seen that most people prefer to book directly on partner websites, whether through the hotel itself or with an OTA. So we'll be shutting down the Book on Google feature for hotels as we continue investing in broader improvements to our hotel search product."
After shutting down its Book on Google option for hotels, the search giant has confirmed on 01 September 2022 that it will phase out the feature for flights, as well, as consumers preference shifts to booking direct.

Google, has disabled Book on Google for non-U.S. users on September 30, 2022, and for U.S. users on or after March 31, 2023. "Over the next 12 months, we plan to phase out the Book on Google feature for flights. We originally offered this functionality to give people a simpler way to buy their tickets and to help our partner airlines and OTAs receive more bookings. 

However, it turned out, that a declining number of users were booking their flights on Google, which acknowledged that travellers would rather book their flights with online travel agencies or directly with airlines.

Final Thoughts

For now the travel app still exists on Google, and the company says it will continue to allow travellers to click on airline and hotel aggregator links and book their flights and stays. Google says it now reroutes users to its display of advertising partners and apparently no longer tries to compete with them.

Perhaps Google has learned its lesson. Google can cannot be everything to everyone and sometime it is better to generate advertising income instead of assassinating its travel and tourism clients who helped it to become so powerful.

On a rather sarcastic not, perhaps Google also has no interest in dealing with flight changes and cancellations, or in providing customer service to stranded travellers.

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