The online travel agency lineup in Google vacation rentals involves strategic considerations: take advantage of the bookings, and strengthen Google's competitive position in the process, or risk going without.
As the online travel world turns, Booking Holdings brands are back participating in Google vacation rentals, and Airbnb dropped out.
Google vacation rentals, which is a newly standalone category within Google’s travel pages, features one online travel agency or property management company and their rates, reviews and other content for each vacation rental listing.
Google debuted the first incarnation of its vacation rental product in early 2019, and for months Booking.com sister company Agoda was a featured participant while Airbnb was absent.
But by October, Agoda, the only Booking Holdings company in Google vacation rentals, dropped out, and Airbnb jumped in.
But now the lineup has changed again: Booking.com is one of the dozen or more featured companies in Google vacation rentals, its sister company Agoda also returned in a small number of markets, and Airbnb is a conscientious objector, as well.
What’s Behind the the Back and Forth?
The launch of Google’s own still very-much evolving vacation rental product accentuates Google’s increasing foothold in travel, including flights, hotels, tours and activities, destination content, reviews, and itinerary management.
The changing lineup, which can change at any moment as companies test and learn from their participation, can be traced to several factors.
Airbnb has dropped out of advertising on Google, as The Information reported, and has tried in the months leading up to its potential initial public offering to show it has a competitive advantage in not having to rely on Google advertising, as competitors like Expedia and, to a lesser extent, Booking.com do.
One ironic part of Airbnb shunning Google vacation rentals is that it is free for select companies to participate in it — there is no advertising involved for now. But Airbnb and competitors have to gauge whether they want their customers to get into the habit of turning to Google for their travel needs.
In the months since Booking Holdings’ Agoda brand dropped out of Google vacation rentals last year in tandem with its desire to generate more direct bookings to its sites, Booking’s strategy appears to have changed. This evolution occurred after the arrival of a new Booking.com chief marketing officer.
Arjan Dijk, Booking.com’s chief marketing officer, has emphasized that the company will advertise n whichever platform, whether it is Google or television, has the best return on investment, and other advantages.
In addition to Booking.com, we saw company’s such as Vrbo, Tripadvisor, HolidayLettings, Vacasa, RedAwning.com, Rentals United, Turnkey Vacation Rentals, Casamundo.com and Futurestay, offering their rates and content in Google vacation rentals. Although we didn’t see it, Agoda is apparently participating in a small number of markets, too.
And the returns on investments should be considered relatively strong in Google vacation rentals for now because listings are free.
Here’s the difference between Google vacation rentals versus Google hotels: the former is one vendor per listing, and it’s free, and the latter is an advertising auction displaying rates from perhaps a dozen providers.
Google Vacation Rentals
Notice that in the screenshot of Google vacation rentals above, Booking.com is the only partner featured in this listing. We saw Booking.com participating in such Google listings in various geographies, ranging from New York City to Vail, Colorado and Paris, France.
In this Google hotels listing for a J.W. Marriott property in Los Angeles, Google features the hotel website, showing rates for a variety of room types, and then there are rates and links from about a dozen other providers.
What all of the advertisers need to consider is whether helping Google improve its various travel products is advantageous in terms of the traffic and bookings that they generate, or whether they are handing Google the keys to the proverbial kingdom.
Photo credit: A Kaui, Hawaii vacation rental as seen on March 19, 2013. Booking.com is now participating in Google vacation rentals. Cbris Randall / Flickr.com