Skift Take

Google has developed solid travel booking and itinerary management tools, but won't push fully into the online travel booking business because of its lucrative role in online advertising. It looks like Google's bifurcated travel strategy will continue for some time.

Google has a unique status in the online travel marketplace.

On one hand, it acts as a gatekeeper and shopping environment for consumers around the world as they research and plan future trips. On the other, it sells ads to travel companies while encouraging them to pay up to receive preferred placement on its booking tools.

As a marketer, dealing with Google is crucial because of the sheer volume of users that use its services.

The company’s dual role in the sector can cause some trepidation with its partners, who aren’t quite sure if its goals as a travel seller are separate from its enormous advertising business.

“Our partners say it doesn’t seem like it’s completely holistic in what you are trying do to,” said Rob Torres, managing director of advertising and marketing, travel sector at Google, at Skift Global Forum on Thursday in New York City. “Where are you going, and what are you going to be when you grow up? We want to be the trusted place people go when they make decisions. Hopefully that leads to more qualified and personalized leads for [our partners]. The reality is that it makes sense if you’re in Google at a vertical like travel and improve the experience for consumers. If we get more people booking and searching, I will be able to send you more leads.”

Google’s marketing arm seems to often be at odds with its travel and restaurant booking services. According to Richard Holden, vice president of product at Google in charge of Google Travel’s product roadmap, bringing personalized content to travelers is much harder in travel than in other areas like shopping or restaurant recommendations.

“The challenge we have in travel is the frequency of the use case compared to the restaurant use case,” said Holden. “I still think there is an opportunity there. There are some more thing we are going to be doing in the hotel space that we might be able to deploy to the user, but the data is a little more sparse then when it comes to restaurants.”

Google will soon add potential trips to its travel booking interface, starting in the U.S., retaining the research users have done in the past and bringing to them the next time they open Google’s travel booking sites. “We think we can tie together these pieces together to better help a user when they come back to Google to pick up where they left off,” said Holden.

Google is also deploying an update to its flight status service that will send notifications about delays to travelers.

There is more complexity in Google’s advertising suites on the horizon. Google’s hotel ad program will now merge into its Google Ads product for search marketing, as the company looks to simplify ad campaign management. The hope is that the stronger tools and analytics will better empower hotels to make smarter decisions about the types of customers they are spending on to boost conversion.

“The reality is you should only be looking at these channels if they are profitable,” said Torres. “The Google AdWords product and Google hotel product answer two questions. I don’t think it’s a one or the other. You have to look at it holistically in your ad spend. Are you looking for brand awareness or really looking to convert?”

With TripAdvisor launching a new recommendation engine with social networking features soon, would Google bring more social content and connection to its variety of consumer-facing products?

“There are things along these lines that we would do,” hinted Holden.

Read the Full Transcript of the Interview Below:

Skift: So thank you everyone. We’re trending on Twitter at hashtag #skiftforum. So please keep it up with social media. Many of you have heard Rob Torres speak at Skift Forums in the past about Google’s marketing effort and many of you have heard Richard or his colleagues talk about Google’s product at various industry events, but so far as we know, this is the first time at a major event that Google’s product and marketing leads have been on stage together at the same time. We’re very excited about it. You might assume from the outside looking in that Google’s marketing team and the product team are a bit at loggerheads because the marketing team is trying to go out and get travel advertisers to spend more money on Google while Richard’s team is building products. Some of them are consumer products that undercut or compete with what the travel brands are doing. So let’s find out. Rob and Richard, are your teams at loggerheads?

Richard Holden: I don’t think so. We talk to each other very often. No, I don’t think so at all. I’ve been at Google a long time. In fact, most of my history at Google was about building the ad products. Originally, AdWords for over a decade I worked on and I came to start working on travel four or five years ago, and so I definitely see the balance between our partners’ needs and our consumer needs. So I think Rob and I speak the same language often.

Skift: Do you ever get pushback when you talk with advertisers about what’s going on in the product side or? …

Rob Torres: Yeah, I mean he’s right. We work very closely together across all avenues and I am there pushing a lot in terms of, are you thinking about from an advertiser’s perspective what does this mean? But in the end, I mean, what he’s doing and trying to build in a consumer experience for Google and Google Travel, really it helps all of my partners because my job is to hopefully help deliver qualified leads that help grow their businesses profitably. And a lot of what Richard’s team does is help build formats that do that and so … But we do and we give him a lot of input from, like I said, I think we try to be the voice of all of you in this room in terms of here, are you thinking about this, and like you said to his team, they really are. Now first and foremost, I’ll tell you, they’re really working on a great user experience that will literally hopefully help all of travel and then that will roll down and hopefully help all of the partners as well.

Skift: Cool. Well Rob, you mentioned sending leads to a lot of the partners that you have here in the audience. In the first half of 2018, the Hotel Ads product increased the number of leads you’re sending to partners by 65 percent year over year. So what’s driving that surge? Is that a one- off or are there underlining drivers that directionally that could continue that kind of growth for leads?

Torres: Well, I mean I think it says that it’s working. For the partners that are participating and its many partners, both large and smaller, participating in this product, Hotel Ads product and we continue to make enhancements to it that really help provide those quality leads that are hopefully converting for everyone. And so you see that great growth because it’s working and our partners tell us it’s working and we continue to add to it. So I look at it as a big success and will continue to push on that. I mean, Richard can tell you more on what the plan is for the product, but we continue to see great new features being added that both on the front end that you see as a consumer, but the back end that really help our advertisers manage that product. And through tools and resources we’re moving into the Google Ads network this year, which is going to be very helpful too to a lot of partners, both a lot of the small, the torso and tail, this is going to help them participate as well. Which I think is really good overall for the entire product and where we’re going with it.

Skift: So later this year Google Hotel Ads will move into the Google AdWords platform and …

Holden: Yeah. A lot of the management will move into that interface and I think as Rob said, it will be a great benefit to a lot of the advertisers out there. A lot of the tools that they’re using in Google Ads today from audience targeting etc., all the reporting capabilities, will get a lot of those essentially for free in the Hotel Ads infrastructure, and it’ll be more seamless in terms of managing that campaign spend. So I think it’s a win win from that perspective.

Skift: OK. So I’d like to compare and contrast the AdWords product with the Hotel Ads. So some hoteliers, they’ve been using AdWords for almost two decades now. They’re very comfortable with it as a customer acquisition tool. This is the blue links with the text ads and search but now increasingly Hotel Ads is a more prominent in desktop and display. Consumers are going into that channel more and not as much on the AdWords it appears and so hoteliers are trying to find it. They’re going into the Hotel Ads tool and some of them believe that on average it is more expensive for them net net to try to compete. More difficult when the Hotel Ads auctions they’re competing against the great online conglomerates that are also competing in there. So do you have a message, Rob, for those hoteliers who are concerned that they were acquiring the customers in this way that they liked, but now they have to do it through this product that maybe is not as preferable for them?

Torres: Well, I mean I think, do I have a message? I mean the reality is you only do anything or you should only be looking at these avenues or these channels if they’re profitable. So I go back to what is profitable for you? What is a profitable lead for you? I think that the Google Ads product tie-in and the Google Hotels product actually answer two different questions in a lot of cases because you’re more down the funnel. It’s more qualified coming through the Hotel Ads product and so it really depends on where you are and what you’re looking for, what type of lead, but I don’t think it’s a one or the other. I think you have to look at it holistically in your entire ad spend and what are you trying to do? Are you just trying to generate brand awareness or are you really trying to convert? I think that’s one of the things that we’ve done very well. We’ve typically given thought of it as really bottom of the funnel, that if you need conversions you go to Google and I think that that’s changed to some extent. We’re still very good at that, but we’re also creating new products that help you holistically look at your channel from start to finish.

Skift: Is Hotel Ads eventually going to supersede in prevalence, the Google AdWords for different products?

Holden: I would say that you’re probably going to see a mix, for a long time in the future, you’ll see a mix of the two for the reason that Rob said. They’re addressing a consumer at a different stage in the funnel ultimately. You may see changes in what the mix is or prominence of one versus the other, but I don’t really foresee a time when there is no Google Ads for the hotel space. I see a combination.

Skift: OK. Earlier in May, the Google Maps team introduced a new feature in the explore options. So people who are logged-in users can get restaurant recommendations from Google if they’ve interacted with the content. Is travel and the data that you have, or is the complexity of travel as a product, something that you still need more time that if you wanted to give recommendations that are relevant, that’s a couple of years out? Or is it something that you could turn on if you decided that’s what consumers want as it fits into your product roadmap?

Holden: Yeah. It’s a great question. It really comes to how you personalize the experience for a user more. I think the challenge we have in travel is the frequency of the use case versus the restaurant use case. You have more data for a particular user based on their interactions of what they’re doing locally than you do typically when they are in travel. With that said, I still think that there is opportunity there. We are very much looking at how to drive more personalization into the product. In that feature in explore, people may have noticed when you play with Google Maps now and you look at a restaurant, there’s a match score that’s being presented as well, too. When you click on that match score it tells you why we give it a zero to 100 percent match percentage for you in particular, and that’s leveraging data that we have based on types of restaurants you’ve gone to in the past, what this restaurant is like versus other restaurants you may have been to. There are similar things that we could be doing in the hotel space I think over time and so we are looking at that. That’s a good example where we might be able to present to a consumer in the future, what’s this match score of this hotel for the type of hotels that you typically look at, but again, the data is a little more sparse than it is in the restaurant space. So it’ll take a little more time.

Skift: So more and more Google has been over the past couple of years, you’ve done a lot to try to get more and allow inspiration and insights for consumers. Earlier this month TripAdvisor debuted something they’re calling a travel feed and so it gives socially powered insights and recommendations from publishers and social influencers. Does Google have a travel feed in the works?

Holden: Well, we have flight search, hotel search, and then our destination search in Google. There are a lot of elements there that are similar in the sense that we provide customized itineraries that are algorithmically generated, plus ones that are somewhat editorial-generated, as well. And we’re beginning to morph what are point-of-interest-based things to do to including experiences also. So I thought what TripAdvisor announced was very interesting. I think there are things along those lines that we’d like to do as well over time.

Skift: OK. A different unit within Google, Reserve With Google, which works with a lot of merchants, just introduced this month a tool where they’re partnering with tours and activities, B2B suppliers like Peek, and Tickets, and Checkfront in order to provide the ability to book within the Google interface tours and activities. So one of the confusing things for some people in the audience here is how the black box of Google works because these people are doing merchants. A lot of people here think of tours and activities as in the travel vertical. Would you be able to pull that into Trips if you wanted to? Your Trips app product or other parts of travel?

Holden: Yeah. I mean I would look at Reserve on Google as very similar to the Book on Google aspects that we’re doing in flight search and hotel search. We are having conversations with the local team about how to make that intersection more clean over time so look forward to that happening more seamlessly in the future.

Skift: OK. So Richard, you own the product roadmap. What do you keep in mind as goals for Google Travel when you to decide what to green light and what not to?

Holden: I think there are a couple of things that we fundamentally look at that we think that Google Travel stands for. One is something that Google’s always stood for, which is comprehensiveness and trust. So we’re trying to get all the flight information, all the hotel prices, all the room rates etc. We want a consumer to be able to come to Google and say, “I know I can get comprehensive information and all of it there.” So that’s sort of ground level, base level thing that we need to do well. I think beyond that, we’re beginning to do two things. One is trying to drive across this data that we have using machine learning capabilities to provide consumers with great insights. Some of those examples are in flight search and hotel search where we’re providing price insights or recommendations on what’s the right time to buy and you can only do that with vast amounts of data, great compute infrastructure. So we’re able to start doing that for consumers. I think the other thing that we’re doing is we’re beginning to stitch together the various pieces. Consumers do travel planning across multiple sessions over many weeks. They come to Google to research one thing, they come back a couple of weeks later to look for more information and so what we’re trying to do more and more is have a user when they connect and come back to Google, pickup where they left off. We’re doing that through what we’re calling travel assistance units where you might type a search for, let’s say Seattle. You may have booked a flight for Seattle three weeks ago. We’ll have that information if it’s in Gmail, be able to then recommend hotels for you and say, “We know your trips upcoming in the next three weeks. Prices are declining. They’ve bottomed out at this point based on our analysis. It’s the time to book,” or, “Here are things to do when you’re in that destination,” or, “The weather for the specific dates you’re going to be there is this,” or, “Here’s a day plan for that destination.” So we think we can tie together these pieces better and automatically help a user when they just come back to Google pick up where they left off.

Skift: One thing we hear from some of the people in the audience when they talk about Google is it is felt that the product portfolio has felt a bit disjointed. Is there anything you’re doing when you’re mentioning helping the users, is there anything to make the products more coherent?

Holden: Yeah. I think very much the stitching together aspect of understanding what the organizing principle is a trip for user. If they come back and we’ve auto-inferred a trip from Gmail content that they have, they’ll see that as front and center on the page and then we’re also just launching in the next few weeks, potential trips. So you may have done research on Google for a trip to Milan, but you haven’t actually booked anything, but we have all that research you’ve done. You may have started things in Maps that you want to go visit in Milan. You go back to Google, you’ll see the upcoming trips. We also have a potential trip there for Milan and it will show all the links to the research you’ve already done again, so you can pick up where you left off. And so in that sense, I think people will begin to see the products as more holistic.

Skift: Okay. So that sounds like a bit of news. Which markets would see this and in what interface would it be, desktop or the Trips app or? .

Holden: For the Trips content, this is in search itself and it’ll be initially for U.S. users on mobile.

Skift: OK, cool. You had mentioned destination content before and how you’re trying to provide insights to users. Back in April 2017, (Google’s) Oliver Heckmannhad told us at
Skift Forum Europe that Google was experimenting with vacation package search in Europe, which is dynamically packaged flight and hotel in markets like Germany. I was searching this morning on several destinations in the U.S. like Stuart, Florida, and under the destinations page there was a link to flight plus hotel packages. Have you expanded that to the U.S. or?

Holden: Yeah. We do offer it now in the UK, Germany and the US. I would still say that it’s not prominent in its display at the moment, it’s fairly buried in the destinations experience. The next version of this we’re working on at the moment to make it more prominent and Germany is actually probably the first market that we’re most focused on simply because Germany is a very large package travel market as a whole. But we still think this is a great opportunity from a transparency standpoint. Users just don’t know where to find this data. There is no great place to go to understand all the packages that are offered out there and from a transparency standpoint, we’re also trying to show people what that package travel would look like and what the component pricing looks like so they can compare right there.

Skift: OK, Rob, has there been any kind of strategy rethink about Google and how you go to market or are you pretty much staying the course?

Torres: In terms of how we go to market for advertising?

Skift: For some of your products. Yeah, for product and marketing. Like when you talk with some of your partners about what it is that you’re doing, is there anything you’ve done to rethink your strategy?

Torres: Well, we get some of the same question you were saying is, it doesn’t seem like it’s completely holistic in what you’re trying to do. We get a lot of questions on where are you going, and what are you doing, and what will you be when you grow up and I think you hit it. We still maintain this, we want to be the trusted places people go for information to make educated fast effortless decisions and so when you think about that holistically and where the product’s going, I think it makes perfect sense for the advertising partners as well. It’s like that is where we’re going and hopefully that leads to, again, more qualified, more personalized, more relevant leads for you that we can enable your businesses to grow. Now, some argue that that’s good. Some argue that that’s competitive, but I think the reality is I think that’s really where we’re going and I think that it makes sense. If you’re Google and you’re looking at a vertical like travel and you want to really improve what’s out there today for consumers, in the end of the goal I look out for all of you and I think that, “Hey, this is a good thing because if we get more people coming and searching, I’m going to be able to send you more leads.” And I think that that’s what really, hopefully in the end, it makes sense. So the message hasn’t changed but pulling it together. And we do push them as like, “You know, could we do more if we actually had a holistic nomenclature etc?” But, we’ll see.

Skift: Touring Bird was a tour and activities experiment that Google’s launched in April this year in Europe. Can you elaborate a bit about that?

Torres: Well, it’s part of what we call Area 120 at Google, which is an effort that is, we’re investing in small businesses that are internally generated. Employees come up with ideas very much like a VC model and there’s a group that runs that group and that they fund them for periods of time, and every six months or so they have gates that they need to get through to get continued funding. In that sense, Touring Bird is independent of what we’re doing in travel. There’s many different efforts that are happening within Area 120. I’m observing it with interest in seeing what they’re building, but it’s a very small team that’s gone off and built something very independent of the rest of the travel business.

Skift: OK. Metasearch has been in the news a lot, price comparison and what has been confusing for people on the outside is whether consumers are not liking the metasearch experience as it moves from desktop to mobile or is some of the problem that some of the other people who are attempting to do flight search, they’re having other issues unrelated to that. Are consumers liking flight search? Are you seeing increased adoption as you move to mobile?

Holden: Very much so. I mean we’re still very pleased with the growth that we have in flight search as a whole. It’s continued for multiple years ever since we launched flight search. I think also our expansiveness in the product has helped, too, in the sense that we were in let’s say 35 markets 18 months ago or so, we’re in 70 markets now. We’ve been very aggressively rolling out the product, signing partnerships with various carriers or markets, and adding things like insights that I was mentioning before that are unique across the market. So yeah. No, the consumer engagement has been great.

Skift: So speaking about insights, one of the ways that Skift sort of looks at business trends is that we try to see how consumer behavior is shifting and then we assume that that’s the way business needs to follow. So do you have any insights, Rob, from what Google knows about how consumer behavior is shifting that maybe you could share?

Torres: Oh yeah, absolutely. Of course, this is near and dear to our heart. We watch it closely and a lot of what we do is based on insights and how the consumer behavior is changing. And I think it’s no surprise we’re seeing there’s been a movement. I mean the travel consumer today is more curious than ever, more demanding of all of us, and certainly more impatient. I think the mobile generation has created that. We want information instantaneously and so if you’re thinking about when you’re creating products, all those things coming together, I think it can be a bit daunting. Certainly when it comes for they want personalization, they want end to end experience, et cetera. How do I as a small company make that happen? And I think machine learning is going to help with a lot of that because I think it’s going to be able to take some of that data and spit it out and make recommendations for us much better than we were able to before. And some good examples of where we’re seeing that is even just being able to test creative, where it used to be somewhat difficult to create even two ad spots and test them. Now with machine learning, you can test multiple creatives and decide which one’s growing to the top and just run with that, but that’s just a small example. But I think you have to make sure. The behaviors that we’re talking about, curious, they’re searching more than ever. So you need to be there, right? That hasn’t stopped and the impatience, you’ve got to start thinking about one size does not fit all for all of your customers. You need to be creating these more relevant experiences and that’s not easy to scale. And that’s where we work with a lot of our partners, especially on the mobile implication there is how do we help improve our site speeds, and our user experience, and how do we help companies learn how to prioritize this. We certainly prioritize, you heard it. Everything we do, it rolls out on mobile usually first or we think about that before it goes to desktop, In some industries we don’t even roll it out to desktop. I think in travel, we’re still in an interesting position that a lot of the actual booking still happen on a large format because it just makes sense, but that’s changed over time too. We’re still seeing a lot of bookings happen on the small format.

Skift: You mentioned machine learning and obviously Google has doubled down on machine learning across the company. So how can machine learning help with Google Travel?

Holden: A lot of different ways and there are a couple recent examples. One would be, again, I go back to the insights work, but you need fast amounts of data. You need lots of computer infrastructure to be able to come up with these predictions of where prices are trending and I think we’re beginning to do a good job of that. We were doing it first in flight search and we’re now starting to do that in hotels as well. We just launched in hotels, a new price insights page. If you go to a particular hotel, you’ll pull up a overlay and you’ll be able to see a graph or how the price has trended for that particular property, what it’s like to compared to other hotels of that same class in that region. Great insight, because often as a consumer you don’t know whether this is a good price or a bad price for that hotel. You don’t have any context, so that’s one good example. I’d say another one is in the flights area and flight status, we’re able to take wealth of flight related data, take publicly available data, FAA data, geo-positional data on aircraft, et cetera. Take all this together, run it through our models and we’re beginning to now come back with incredibly accurate flight prediction models. So we might be able to come back and tell you as a user we have 90% certainty that your flight is going to be delayed based on where the incoming aircraft is, based on all the other aircraft on the ground etc. And we’re beginning to get consumers to say, “Hey, you’re notifying me before the carrier or anybody else is.” So that’s a great aspect of machine learning, an example of that as well too. And then on the advertiser partner side and Hotel Ads, we’re beginning to use that from a feeds perspective. So price accuracy is a big issue in hotel search, making sure that you’re seeing the most accurate prices as a consumer. We consume a lot of bandwidth with our partners trying to make sure the cache is up to date and all the prices are up to date. Using machine learning we can do a much better job of understanding when prices might be going stale and being able to selectively then pull from the partner, reducing the bandwidth on them, the systems volume as well too. So that’s another way they can save money basically from a partner perspective as well.

Skift: So you mentioned as a second example though, potentially alerting a traveler that their flight might be delayed several hours before they got an official confirmed delay from the airline. Is that rolled out in any markets or is that something you’re just testing?

Holden: No, we roll it out in the flight status now. We’re continuing to improve that, but check it out on an upcoming flight and you may see that you’re getting a notification before a carrier’s telling you that your flight might be delayed, predicting a number of things related to weather or other things.

Skift: OK. When it comes to hotel price comparison, you sort of mentioned before some of the goals that you have for Google. You didn’t say an instant lightening fast results, but that’s always something that Google is famous for, but you also talked about trying to provide trusted price comparison, I think was your word. Giving comprehensive results and stitching things together. What about partner-facing goals because you have different partners who have … You have some advertisers who are very big, some are small, but you want to offer, equal treatment is a loaded term, but you want to try to make sure that all of your customers are happy and satisfied with what they’re getting. How do you sort of make the trade offs when you know a particular product search, how many options are listed in the default before you have to click more in a search, all those different kinds of fine tuning-things? How do you?

Holden: We definitely spend a lot of time thinking about that because to have a healthy ecosystem, you need participants across the ecosystem in it. So we definitely want all players to be able to participate in it fully. I mean there’s small things that we’ve done, for example, in the last year or two where we created taglines and particular call outs. For example, the supplier, a hotel supplier in particular would be able to show that this is the official supplier. Many consumers want to book directly with the property itself and they want to understand who that is relative to an intermediary. On the other hand, we allow intermediaries to also show what the value is that they bring to these call outs as well too. So we do think a lot about it, little tweaks in the product to bigger tweaks as well. But trying to keep the balance in the ecosystem is something we think about daily frankly.

Skift: OK. So Rob, I have sort of a question of like earlier (Booking Holdings’) Glenn Fogel was on stage and talking. He has said on earnings call before that Booking Holdings considers Google to be a very helpful partner to do a lot of testing and stuff. Is there anything that you’re hearing from partners like that? More emphasis on things that they want from Google more now than maybe five years ago? Is there any hint of what suppliers and travel resellers and suppliers are sort of looking from Google with solutions?

Torres: Well, the one thing that hasn’t changed at all, they want profitable leads. I mean, they’re all large, small, indifferent (saying) “Hey, can you provide us good, profitable leads that are, you know, help us grow our business.” And that does become challenging over time as growth slows in the overall travel space, but luckily we’ve been an industry that’s been pretty much on fire for many years, right? And so that question is always what’s next? How can you help us grow our business? Are there things that you can do and we can work together to really make that happen. And so we continue to work closely with partners large and small, to figure out ways that can work for them because there are nuances in the different businesses and what they have. But I think as Richard alluded to, is we’re trying to build products. I mean it benefits all of us to have, certainly from a user perspective, to have comprehensiveness and so we want these players to … and we want them to be successful. And so some of the tools will be better suited for some and I think you’ll see us continue to create tools that actually help everyone.

Skift: OK. Cool. Let’s go to some audience questions. Do you see Google creating a consumer travel product that provides a better experience to connect existing platforms or dis-intermediates them?

Holden: I would say that we are very much in the business that we’ve always been in of looking at providing consumers with relevant results, comprehensive results, and then connecting them at the end of the day with partners. I don’t think our business has changed in any regard in that shape. So I very much see us as connecting to other partners over time.

Skift: Thanks Richard. What’s the most surprising trend that you’ve seen in travel over the past 12 months?

Holden: I don’t know if it’s … It’s not a surprising trend to me. I think the growth and interest that’s happening in the activity space is, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that there’s a lot of potential there, but the acceleration that’s happening in that space has surprised me over the last year I would say.

Skift: One thing that surprised me is that Google hasn’t gotten into alternative lodging too much. You’ve done a bit in Europe and through map search and stuff you offer some alternative lodging. What has held you back? Is it that you feel there’s not consumer demand for it? Do you feel it’s a complicated product that the suppliers from a hotel side don’t like to see the juxtaposition?

Holden: We struggled for a little while as to what’s the right way to integrate those offerings. We are actually offering it now outside the U.S. as a filter in hotel search in major metropolitan areas. There’s content that you can filter in to see alternative lodging or vacation rental content. Typically today, the content that we have there is apartment like, it’s most hotel-like properties, though we will be in the near future moving into a broader set of properties as well. We think it’s hugely relevant. So …

Skift: Google is beginning to curate information about destination experiences with the Google Trips app. For anyone who doesn’t know, Google Trips is an app that can help you plan your trip very effectively. It’s one of my favorite apps. I don’t know why you don’t promote it more. So you’re very quiet about it. So what’s the future like for DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) in your ecosystem?

Holden: Very favorable. We were looking to embed more content either in the Trips app or on the web in our destinations search product. We’re very much, as I’ve said before, trying to build the quality of the product out fully and then we’re going to look to integrate more partners there over time. But I think DMOs can play a nice role in that over time.

Skift: Lightning fast question, Rob. Are you going to do more to promote Trips or keep it about the level of marketing where it is right now or less?

Torres: Well, I think you’re going to see stuff to come, right? You heard it. We’re going to do more on Trips.

Skift: OK. All right. For any travel search on Google today, the first two to three screens of results are ads. Is this not in conflict with Google’s founding vision?

Holden: I would say overall that mobile is a different … All of our studies are showing that people use mobile in a different way, in the sense that we used to talk about first page or below the fold on desktop, which really was a cliff. Mobile people scroll away, so when we look at that, where there is a break on the mobile screen is actually less relevant because people are less hindered at going through the content than they are on desktop. But we always look at this and say, “Is there a balance between paid content and unpaid content, both in desktop and mobile?” We track it closely, but consumer behavior is not showing it as a hindrance for finding the organic contract.

Skift: Awesome. Well thanks Richard. Thank you Rob. Really appreciate it. Holden: Thank you.

Torres: Thank you, Sean.


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Tags: google, online travel, sgf2018

Photo credit: Google's Rob Torres and Richard Holden, right and center, on stage at Skift Global Forum 2018. Matt Mateiescu / Skift

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