Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Online Travel

Google Flights and Hotels Make Europe-Mandated Transparency Changes … in Europe

1 year ago

Google made changes to Google Flights and Hotels related to transparency in hotel reviews and pricing under pressure from the European Commission — but stopped short of making those modifications elsewhere in the world.

“Reviews aren’t verified,” Google states in the European Union. Source: Google

At the behest of the European Commission, Google added text in hotel reviews in European Union countries, noting “Reviews aren’t verified.”

Unlike online travel agencies, Google doesn’t take bookings so it would be hard-pressed to verify user reviews. Tripadvisor, likewise, doesn’t verify hotel reviews for the same reason.

Clicking further into Google’s explanatory language about user reviews in Europe, Google states that it accepts reviews from signed-in users — there’s no requirement that they ever stayed at that particular hotel — and licenses reviews from third-parties. “Google doesn’t do any additional filtering for spam or inappropriate language beyond that done by the provider, nor do we verify these reviews,” Google states.

The European Commission stated that Google accepted this disclosure about hotel reviews and additional transparency commitments that other hotel-booking platforms such as Expedia Group and Booking.com agreed to on pricing and availability.

“The commitments made by Google are a step forward in this direction. We call on Google to comply fully with  the Geo-blocking Regulation, ensuring that consumers can enjoy the same rights and access the same content, wherever they are in the EU,” European Commission Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in the announcement statement.

Google agreed to these changes about user reviews, consented to disclose that Google Flights and Google Hotels is merely a middleman, and agreed to provide greater clarity when presenting discounted pricing, explaining that such deals are merely a reference point. But Google decided to make these changes in Europe only — and not in other geographies around the world where regulators were not providing heat.

“As part of our ongoing dialogue with the European Commission and the EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation Network, we have made changes to our products that provide a clear benefit and protect consumers,” a Google spokesperson stated. “We appreciate the partnership on this topic and are open to constructive dialogue with all consumer associations and regulators.”

Google’s hotel reviews in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world have no added language explaining the reviews are not verified. So travelers might erroneously believe that everyone writing reviews about these hotels actually stayed a night or two there.

A Google hotel review module in the U.S. has no language to let travelers know that the reviews are not verified reviews. Source: Google

Google frequently talks about helping travelers and other consumers to discover information as being one of its top priorities. However, the search engine giant, perhaps in the interests of providing a cleaner user interface that wouldn’t get in the way of users clicking on hotel ads, sacrificed transparency for expediency in the rest of the world.

Google is not alone in doing what regulators demand in one geography, but not expanding it to other regions for the good of consumers. For example, for several years Airbnb has shown the total price of stays, including taxes, up-front in the European Union at the urging of the European Commission. However, it was only this year that Airbnb became displaying the total rate, albeit without taxes included, instead of just the nightly rate without fees at first glance, in other geographies.

Online Travel

Booking.com Says It Ran Into Snag Hiring People Who Live in Iran

1 year ago

Amsterdam-based Booking.com said it had to rescind several job offers made to Iranians living in Iran because of complexities in the international hiring and relocation process of would-be employees living in that country.

Booking.com headquarters
Booking.com headquarters as seen in 2019. Source: Booking.com

A Booking Holdings spokesperson responded to a Skift inquiry on the subject after Maede Rajabi posted on LinkedIn that “Booking.com rescinded my signed contract one day before my flight to Amsterdam and 5 days before my start date. It happened on September 9, 2022. Same scenario happened to other people from my country, Iran.”

Rajabi introduced the post as “a short story about racism in Booking.com.”

The Booking.com spokesperson said the online booking company “employs many Iranian nationals.”

But hiring Iranians currently living in Iran apparently ran afoul of certain regulations or possibly sanctions against Iran, although the company didn’t cite specifics.

The spokesperson said “mobility vendors [were] unable to effect the necessary part of the hiring and relocation process.”

Booking.com stated that the issue had nothing to do with discrimination, and it is looking into ways to assist Iranians who were subject to the rescinded job offers.

Tourism

Europe Urgently Needs to Fill 1.2 Million Travel and Tourism Job Vacancies

2 years ago

The European Union’s travel and tourism sector recovery is at risk unless 1.2 million jobs are filled, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council and European Travel Commission.

Vacancies are likely to remain unfilled during the busy summer period, with travel agencies predicted to be the worst hit with a 30 percent shortfall of workers.

Airlines and hotels are likely to suffer one in five unfilled vacancies, representing 21 percent and 22 percent staff shortage respectively.

“Europe showed one of the strongest recoveries in 2021, ahead of the global average. However, current shortages of labor can delay this trend and put additional pressure on an already embattled sector,” said Julia Simpson, council president and CEO, in a statement.

In 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak, 1.7 million direct jobs were lost, they claimed. In 2021, when governments began to ease travel restrictions, the sector’s direct contribution to the European Union’s economy recovered by 30.4 percent and recovered 571,000 jobs.

This year, the council projects the sector’s recovery will continue to accelerate and almost reach pre-pandemic levels with an expected 32.9 percent increase in its direct contribution to the union’s economy.

The pair have identified six measures that governments and the private sector can implement to address the issue:

  1. Facilitate labour mobility within countries and across borders and strengthen collaboration at all levels, providing visas and work permits
  2. Enable flexible and remote working where feasible — particularly if travel restrictions still prevent workers from moving freely across borders
  3. Ensure decent work, provide social safety nets and highlight career growth opportunities — with work that is safe, fair, productive, and meaningful — to reinforce the attractiveness of the sector as a career choice and retain new talent
  4. Upskill and reskill talent and offer comprehensive training as well as create — to equip the workforce with new and improved skills
  5. Create and promote education and apprenticeships — with effective policies, and public-private collaboration, that support educational programs and apprentice-based training
  6. Adopt innovative technological and digital solutions to improve daily operations, as well as mobility and border security to ensure safe and seamless travel and an enhanced customer experience.

“Governments and the private sector need to come together to provide the best opportunities for people looking for the great career opportunities that the travel sector offers,” Simpson added.