It’s 2020, and the way people book hotels is becoming more digitalised as travellers today are more technologically savvy than ever before.
The most recent statistics suggest that 83% of US adults now prefer to book their travel online, while online digital travel sales were worth a massive US$755 billion worldwide in 2019.
It comes as no surprise then that 96% of people travelling for leisure purposes start their travel planning with a Google search.
In response to these trends, Google has started expanding its presence in the online travel market and changing its advertising tactics.
In addition to making it more costly for hotels and online travel agencies (OTAs) to show up in paid ads, they have started introducing the option of booking a hotel on Google directly.
The search engine giant argues that they introduced these instant bookings to optimise the user experience for the traveller.
But many in the travel sphere now question what this means for OTAs, as this method doesn’t require customers to go to any other websites to complete the booking anymore.
While ‘Book on Google’ is growing in importance, it doesn’t mean hoteliers should drop all other distribution channels.
GDS production continues to grow year on year up to 10% worldwide, and direct bookings are on the rise again.
It does, however, mean hoteliers should closely monitor this trend and prepare themselves for a potential future move away from OTAs and even more towards Google.
The good news is, it’s a lot less complicated than you might think.
We’ve gone ahead and laid out everything you need to know about Book on Google, as well as how to optimise your presence via your Google My Business profile.
How does Book on Google work?
First things first: so what exactly is Book on Google, and how does it work?
The Book on Google initiative allows users to complete the hotel booking process directly on Google Search and Google Maps.
This Google booking is possible through a partnership with central reservation systems, allowing hotels to pay commissions to Google for transactions that the search engine giant handles on their own platform.
As this is an optional service, it is currently left up to hotels to decide whether or not they want to participate.
To participate, hotels need to sign up for Google Hotel Ads, either through the cost-per-click or commission programme.
Once activated, anyone that completes a specific hotel search will be able to navigate to ‘Book a room’ as part of the hotel’s Google My Business profile.
When the user clicks the hotel’s pricing option, they get taken to a Google Travel page (google.co.uk/travel for those located in the UK) where they can complete their booking using Google Pay, if they wish.
As easy as 1-2-3 really!
Optimise your Google My Business profile
We’ve mentioned Google My Business a few times now (have you been paying attention?), but what is it and how is it connected to Book on Google?
Google My Business is a free business profile that lets you manage how your hotel shows up on Google Search and Google Maps.
If you’ve ever searched for your hotel on Google and noticed the box on the right show up incorrect information, location or images, then you’ll know what we’re talking about.
More than just a local listing, Google My Business profiles are often the first impression potential guests have of your hotel and allow them to leave reviews afterwards.
They also let you set up the built-in bookings option, which is where the connection with Book on Google lies.
To create or update a Google My Business profile, make sure you are signed in to your Google account (you might need to create one first) and select ‘manage now’ in the top right-hand corner.
We recommend all hotels to check and update the below options:
- Physical address and location (does the pin fall on the right building on Google Maps?)
- Opening hours (if relevant)
- Contact information like telephone number
- Category (so it’s crystal clear that you are a hotel!)
- Hotel star rating (is it incorrect? More on this below)
- Review responses (if you have reviews, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, respond to acknowledge them and thank the person)
- Social profiles
- Built-in booking option (through Book on Google)
Changing your hotel star rating on Google
Sometimes it can happen that Google shows the wrong star rating for a hotel, which is confusing for bookers and frustrating for hoteliers!
We have received quite a couple questions on why this happens and how this can be changed, so if you’re in this situation, read on.
While you obviously can’t manually change your own star rating, it’s good to know that Google picks up these ratings from relevant third party sites.
While they do not publicly provide the full list of sites they pull this data from, for hotels it will likely be OTA sites like Tripadvisor or Booking.com.
To update a rating, Google needs a minimum of the same three ratings across those sites.
We suggest having a look at the OTAs that currently list your hotel and reviewing how many stars they list.
If there’s a discrepancy, you know where to start!
According to Google, once the star ratings are correct on the third-party websites, their algorithm will automatically update. But we recommend monitoring this and contacting them in case it takes a while!
Direct and GDS bookings still as relevant as ever
We mentioned earlier that even if Google is changing its approach to hotel bookings, it’s important that hoteliers still focus on other distribution channels to ensure a good mix.
While Google distribution for hotel bookings is promising, it’s never good to heavily depend on one single channel!
Currently, 87% of guests will visit a hotel website at least once before making a reservation, regardless of how they end up booking.
What’s more, Phocuswright is actually predicting that by 2022, direct bookings will grow to a 50% share.
In addition to updating your Google My Business profile, hoteliers should thus invest in optimising their own website for more traffic.
Curious how? Read how to get more visitors to your hotel website to find out more.
It’s also equally as important to review the possibilities of the GDS, short for Global Distribution System.
Over 600,000 travel agents use the GDS for flight, car rental and room bookings every single day, and 2018 was a record year for GDS growth as it boasted over 75 million generated reservations.
At HotelREZ, we’re experts at helping hotels get more direct bookings and ensuring their GDS distribution is presenting them with the revenue growth they want.
We also work very closely with hotels to ensure their business development programmes are working in their favour, and help them improve their brand image with a concise online marketing strategy.
We can help you optimise your Book on Google offering while ensuring your distribution mix is working for you.
Interested? Get in touch to find out more.
About HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts
HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts was founded in 2004 by Mark Lewis, an experienced hospitality industry professional and entrepreneur. Over the course of over a decade, the company has grown to be one of the leading hotel representation companies dedicated to marketing and connecting independent properties with bookers worldwide. HotelREZ now provides distribution, revenue, sales consultancy and marketing services and support to more than 1,500 hotels, apartments and hotel groups in over 100 countries including private label GDS chain code solutions. HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts is a SAAS company.
HotelREZ manages the brand Best Loved Hotels, a collection of unique global individual properties, with a dedicated GDS Programme, together with a Website and printed Directory, aimed at the high-end leisure agency and traveller. HotelREZ also incorporates the global World Rainbow Hotels, the world’s only GDS enabled LGBT global hotel consortia representing some 1200 hotels in 230 destinations across the globe.