Google is now squarely and firmly into the vacation rental business. It was only a matter of time before this mammoth of a search engine got in on the act. Google started off by offering flights and hotels in their travel search options for almost a decade now.
Recently, however, probably thanks to the popularity of third-party platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway, Google decided to add “vacation rentals” to their Hotel Search function.
In this quest, Google has partnered with some notable brands in the industry, including:
- Expedia’s Home Away
As you may have noticed, Airbnb isn’t featuring on that list, and neither is Booking Holdings. Google says that the program is still in its infancy and more partners will be added to the list as time goes.
How Does Google Vacation Rentals Search Work?
The first thing we should all remember is that Google is a search engine first and foremost. As such, a huge bulk of its business comes from advertisements by brands that want more visibility in front of the billions of people who visit Google every month. Google’s “Vacation Rental Search” doesn’t deviate that much from that model.
What Google seeks to do is provide the user with as wonderful an experience as possible. This often means giving them the most relevant answers to their queries. As such, the vacation rental search by Google will follow this model very closely.
Whenever a user searches for any information (mostly travel-based) he/she will be given the option to book vacation rentals in the area in addition to the hotel results. The user will be able to filter through the available short-term rental options to find the most suitable stay for him/her.
What this has done is it is effectively brought the entire world to your laptop or mobile device. Whereas huge third party platforms such as Airbnb have over 6 million listings on their system, that number is still rather modest in the global accommodation context.
With Google vacation rental search now, you practically have access to many more options pulled from the myriad of partners with whom Google has gone into business.
Google has been testing this additional filter to its search since 2017, and as you would expect, since it’s been rolled out, there is only more to come. The number of participating providers, as already stated includes the big industry players such as TripAdvisor and Expedia.
In many cases, you will be redirected to these platforms, but in some cases, you can actually make a direct booking for the hotel or homestay you choose via Google and pay using Google Pay. In this case, the homeowner or hotel you booked will receive the notification and payment details, and they will be responsible for sending you the necessary correspondence.
Why Should You Care?
As a user trying to find the best vacation rentals in the market today, this can only mean good news. The fact that you can easily compare flights, hotels and a host of vacation rentals on the same interface gives you a whole lot of option with very few clicks.
It also means more visibility for previously unknown options in the market. Now you can find homes that are not only unique but even more affordable as every vacation rental homeowner tries to compete on this big stage.
What Does This Mean to Vacation Rental Homeowners?
For the most part, whenever Google goes into a market, you can expect massive disruption in that particular market. Google really is a tech giant that wields unmatched power when it comes to traffic acquisition.
However, Google rentals aren’t in direct competition with vacation rental homeowners per se. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If your listing falls under the above-mentioned partners, then you can expect better visibility.
Yes, you may have to dig a little deeper into your pocket to shell out those all-important advertising dollars, but with the right strategy, you can expect better visibility and as such, better returns.
There were unfounded fears that Google may go into direct competition with OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia. However, if you think about it, most of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, and these big vacation rental platforms spend billions of dollars on advertising every year.
While the travel and vacation rental industry are worth an estimated $1.5 trillion dollars, it’s very unlikely that Google will assume it can capture that entire market and therefore not care about the advertising dollars. Going into direct competition with these OTAs will mean that Google will effectively be undercutting itself and losing billions a year in advertising from them.
As such, the logical thing for Google to do is to focus on the one thing it does best: search! That is probably why Google has partnered with most of the major OTAs in the industry.
You will be hard-pressed to find a hotel or a vacation rental that you can book directly with Google. You will, however, very easily find listings that you can book through one of their partners thanks to readily available and highly visible ads.
As at now, it’s still unclear whether or not Airbnb will join the fold but as things stand, the partners that are already on-board such as Expedia and TripAdvisor, despite being huge players in the industry, still only represent a fraction of the total earnings potential.
It’s logical that Google will continue to help these partners to capture more and more of the business as the vacation rental search function gets more refined in the future.
If you are a homeowner who doesn’t intend to build a website, then this makes total sense. You can simply pay for the adverts and get the necessary visibility. However, if you intend to build a brand then it might limit your online presence.
Either way, this is a good thing for most industry players and definitely a wonderful option for guests who want to experience the uniqueness of this world.