In online travel, everything is tactical and not necessarily permanent. But for now, at least, those coveted Airbnb listings are appearing in Google's vacation rental pages in some European cities. This could have big implications for both companies if those listings remain.
The long drought is over: While Booking Holdings is gone, Airbnb is in.
Airbnb listings have begun appearing for the first time in Google’s vacation rentals feature in several European cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, and Madrid, for example. The listings we saw were for entire homes and apartments.
The development, which could be a here-today-and-gone-tomorrow experiment, or something more ongoing, is notable because until recently Airbnb had been one of the few major vacation rental players to be absent from Google’s vacation rental pages, which launched in early 2019. Expedia Group and TripAdvisors vacation rental brands indeed participate in the Google feature, as does Vacasa and Red Awning, for instance.
Airbnb’s appearance in Google vacation rentals could be a cameo — a small test to see if participation is worthwhile.
Expedia Group brands such as Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Vrbo have been participants in Google vacation rentals, as had been Booking Holdings’ Singapore-based Agoda brand, which dropped out earlier this month.
When a user searches Google.com for “Amsterdam vacation rentals,” we saw an Airbnb “1 bedroom, Sleeps 4” listing appear second in a Google 4-pack of listings, below Vrbo and above properties from TripAdvisor’s Holiday Lettings, and Expedia’s Vrbo. Clicking on the Airbnb listing transports the user to Google’s travel pages. Clicking on the Book button enables a guest to book a houseboat, in this example, on Airbnb.
Airbnb’s tentative debut on Google, if it becomes a standard way of distributing Airbnb inventory, is strategically important for Airbnb as it heads toward an intended public offering in 2020. It seems to show that Airbnb would not fear a greater reliance on Google than it would if it merely advertised in Google Search, as it has been doing.
Airbnb’s recently publicized first quarter results showed that its marketing costs have been escalating fairly sharply so its leaning into Google could have important financial implications when Google indeed monetizes the feature.
The economic terms for Airbnb’s appearance in Google’s vacation rentals feature have not been publicized. Actually, neither had Airbnb’s participation — or test — been announced. Until now, some of the participants in Google’s vacation rentals feature have let it be known that they were not paying Google anything for clicks or bookings as Google irons out the kinks in its product.
It is interesting, though, that Airbnb listings are now showing up in Google’s vacation rental feature in European cities only a couple of weeks after Booking Holdings, which is strong in Europe and ramping up its alternative accommodations to compete with Airbnb, removed its Agoda brand from Google’s travel pages.
Airbnb’s participation is a win for Google, which wants to make its travel pages comprehensive, and would have had a big hole in its supply if Airbnb had remained missing.
Airbnb’s entry into Google’s vacation rental pages bodes well for Google’s hotel pages, too, if it sticks. Airbnb’s HotelTonight brand participates in Google’s hotel pages, but so far Airbnb itself hasn’t. As Airbnb adds more hotels to its inventory, this portends more advertising dollars for Google.
Airbnb and Google didn’t immediately respond with requests for comment.
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Photo credit: An Airbnb Luxe property in Provence, France. Airbnb is testing its listings in Google's vacation rentals feature in some European cities. Airbnb