Eventually, Google's new Tickets feature may turn out to be one of the most important developments in a long time for the tours and activities sector. Google will certainly move to monetize the feature with paid ads, and it will ultimately expand to tours, and other products, too.
Google has taken a major step into the tours and activities space, and rolled out a a tickets feature for local attractions around the world on mobile devices, Skift has learned.
As reported previously, Google is phasing out on Saturday Reserve with Google for tours and activities. The feature enabled tours and activities operators, who ran everything from Vatican tours to Mafia history walking tours of Brooklyn, to capture bookings right on Google without consumers having to navigate to operator or online travel agency websites such as those of GetYourGuide and Tripadvisor/Viator.
There are winners and losers in Google’s latest foray into the sector. Although Google abandoned its ambition to be a booking site, the search engine-turned travel comparison-shopping heavyweight seems very committed to solidifying its role as a major player in tours and attractions — even more than it already is today.
If you do a Google search for One World Observatory, you’ll see a direct link for “in-person tickets” at the supplier website. These tend to be more informational about how to buy tickets when you show up to the attraction in person, and are not for online booking.
Formerly, when Google was handling bookings on Google, with the help of online travel agencies, a host of tech providers were involved to facilitate the booking.
But they could be less involved than they were with Reserve with Google because the integration with Google is not as complex.
Google is now scraping the web for supplier-direct websites for information on how to get in-person tickets, and this could diminish the role of reservations partners, ranging from Checkfront to FareHarbor and Tripadvisor’s LaFourchette, as far as direct supplier information and bookings are concerned.
The online travel agency links you see above, such as those from Bookety, which is offering a World Trade Center 911 and Ground Zero Walking Tour for $25 versus One World Observatory’s $43 admissions’ ticket in an apples and oranges juxtaposition, are free links as far as Google’s concerned. However, the operator would have to pay roughly 25-30 percent commissions if they are taking bookings through Trip.com and GetYourGuide, for example.
Reserve with Google’s former reservation partners, including Rezy, Rezdy and Rezzo, are not totally cut out of Google’s new Tickets & Tours feature, but they are less involved in tying operators into Google because the integration isn’t as complex as when Google was taking the bookings.
With the new tickets feature, Google doesn’t process any bookings itself, but passes users along to the attractions’ official website or to a third party partner such as Klook, Tiqets or Headout.
So while tech partners may be on the losing end to an extent and miffed by their diminished stature in Google’s new feature, the suppliers, such as One World Observatory or the Statue of Liberty, are winners because they are getting some direct traffic from Google for free.
These free links directly to attractions’ websites through Google’s web-scraping activities were a big shock to third-party tours and activities tech providers, according to a source, because they expected to play a larger role in the new feature.
While Google’s links to online travel agencies for tickets are free for now, you can expect Google to eventually offer a combination for free and paid links, like it currently does for Google Hotels.
The tickets feature is located in Google Search and is hasn’t currently been imported to Google Travel, which features hotels, vacation rentals and flights as a travel section of Google.
“We’re piloting the introduction of ticket booking links on Google Search, so users can easily compare options for visiting their favorite attractions,” a Google spokesperson said.
Photo credit: One World Observatory, near the site of the former World Trade Center in Manhattan as seen on June 7, 2015. Google got into the business of providing tickets for such attractions. Shinya Suzuki / Flickr.com