Google abolishes fees for hotel booking links

Hotels can now have booking links listed on Google at no charge, as the search giant announces that it is eschewing paid links in favour of “organic” price comparison – a development that strengthens Google’s standing in the metasearch space.

Prior to this update – announced by Google’s vice president, product management, Richard Holden – hotels and OTAs had to pay to list bookable room rates on its price-comparison metasearch platform, Google Travel.

Holden (right): Switch to organic, free booking links for hotels on Google will boost booking confidence

Starting this week, hospitality players will be given two new slots for booking links under the “Overview” tab in Google Travel, in addition to a maximum of four paid ad slots. These paid links will also appear under the “Prices” tab, in addition to an unlimited number of organic and free booking links from eligible partners. The organic links are based on pricing and availability information fed from the hotel.

Holden explained that this change will give consumers “more confidence in making decisions about booking”. He explained: “Users will find that they’ll have more confidence in the product over time, because they believe that they’re seeing all the offers (available). That, in turn, will benefit our partners, from small hotels to large OTAs.”

This development joins another change in Google’s metasearch product made in January last year, when it stopped charging airlines for direct booking links within the Google Flights price-comparison feature. The same update was made to the listing of shopping products this year.

“We’re going to see a strong need for the industry to connect with consumers, going forward. We see this as a great opportunity to make it available to any player in the ecosystem (who are) looking for ways to efficiently reach consumers coming out of a very trying period,” expressed Holden.

Last December, Google also rolled out its Travel Insights platform, which provides data-driven analytics about travel demand and consumer booking trends. This serves as a fountain of knowledge that hotels, travel companies and governments can tap on to understand where the potential for travel is re-emerging, said Holden.

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