Google has made no secret of its ever-growing ambitions in the travel vertical. Now, the Internet giant's movements in the tours and activities space is warranting attention from travel businesses.
That "the big G" quietly kicked off a trial run of its new Things To Do display on Google My Business listings is a reflection of the "many opportunities" that await in the travel and activities segment, said Arival Co-Founder and CEO Douglas Quinby during the recent Arival APAC Tech & Distribution Forum.
While "this soft launch is a bit rough around the edges," wrote Quinby in a piece examining Google's trial run, "it shows just how hard it can be — and how much there is to do — even for a tech giant like Google in our sprawling, complex industry".
Google Things to Do platform, currently in beta, is limited to mobile and features only attractions, but will all migrate into a broader part of Google's universe in the coming months, according to Mark Rizzuto, CEO of Livn, which has been recruited as Google's new connectivity partner enabling attractions to get direct bookings straight from Google Search Results.
A key differentiator of Google Things to Do from its earlier iteration is "the massive empowerment of the tour operator that never existed on the Google Reserve", said Rizzuto, during Arival's virtual forum.
"On the Google Things to Do platform, there will be an official side button in the My Business listing part of the Google search response stream (on the right hand side of the screen). The real estate will be populated with supplier content, along with OTAs listing their price."
In what Rizzuto hails a "game-changing" development, tour operators will for the first time be able to get in league with "the big guys" and display their products within a common real estate.
"I think it comes at the right time in terms of distribution. The traditional model of distribution has been somewhat damaged in the last 18 months," said Rizzuto.
"If a tour operator is not considering res tech (reservation technology) to advance their web presence at the moment, they are really missing a trick. It will be a great opportunity for tour operators to regain some control of their own distribution in the direct channel."
Things to Do may still be in beta, but what's for sure is travel operators must be prepared for what Google does next.