Skift Take

Kudos to Google for bringing some diversity into the leadership of Google Travel. Left unanswered is whether the leadership changes portend any strategic shifts.

Richard Holden, who was general manager of Google Travel for the past three years, and led its product management team for almost seven years before that, has been replaced, Skift has learned.

“We’re extremely grateful for Richard’s leadership of the Travel team over the past many years,” a Google spokesperson said. “Helping people find information and explore the world is core to our mission, and our new leaders Rose Yao [vice president of product management] and Julie Farago [senior director of software engineering] bring deep experience in this area.”

Yao previously was a product leader in Google’s Geo organization, and Farago worked in product and engineering roles across Google and Verily for more than 15 years. Most recently, Farago had a key role in Google Travel’s hotel and vacation rental search products, leading engineering.

Google declined to say why Holden, who had been a high-profile figure at Google Travel for the past 10 years, has been replaced. Efforts to get a comment from Holden were unsuccessful.

Google claimed that Holden, who has been with the company for 21 years, has not left the company, but declined to share additional details. His LinkedIn profile shows his most recent position as ending in May 2023. His profile says he’s a vice president of product management in San Francisco.

Holden said in his LinkedIn profile that he “developed from the ground up the #1 flight and lodging search products globally – Google Flight Search and Google Hotel Search.”

Holden had a key role at Google Flights even before Google’s 2011 acquisition of ITA Software, which became the foundation for Google Flights.

Over the years under Holden’s leadership, Google Flights and Google Hotels, which are metasearch, or travel comparison platforms, became leading players in these sectors around the world, taking market share from established incumbents.

Google Travel — and in particular Google Flights — has had a rollercoaster year as Google laid off 6% of the company’s overall staff in late January. The engineering team at Google Flights may have been chopped by 10-12%, including many senior engineers, according to sources.

In his role, Holden spoke for Google Travel at many industry conferences (see videos below).

It is premature to say whether the leadership change portends any strategic shifts for Google’s travel vertical, its second largest.

Here are some of Holden’s appearance at Skift conferences in recent years:

Richard Holden at Skift Global Forum 2022 in New York City

Richard Holden at Skift Global Forum in New York City in 2021

Richard Holden and Rob Torres at Skift Global Forum Asia in 2019

Richard Holden and Rob Torres at Skift Global Forum in New York City in 2018

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Tags: google, google flights, google travel, ita software, leadership, metasearch, online travel newsletter

Photo credit: Richard Holden (left), vice president, product management, Google, speaking Dennis Schaal, Skift's executive editor and founding editor, at Skift Global Forum in New York on Sept. 20, 2022. Source: Skift Neil van Niekerk / Skift

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