Google going after Airbnb, TripAdvisor with vacation rental listings


  • TECH
  • Monday, 31 Jul 2017

France, Paris skyline, Eiffel Tower and cityscape seen from an aerial point of view.

Watch out, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, HomeAway, VRBO and other online vacation-rental companies – there's a new player in your market, and it's very, very big.

Mountain View tech behemoth Google has just started including homes and apartments in results for hotel searches. So far, the destinations are limited to European cities, but the company said it hopes to expand the offerings.

The company was already providing listings of hotels in a box amid search results for hotels in particular cities.

For the new online service, Google has added "accommodation type" to the filters available for narrowing down results, allowing users to find apartments and homes to rent.

Search for "Paris hotels," for example, then choose the "vacation rentals" filter, and up comes a page showing a scroll-down list of rentals on the left of the screen and a map on the right showing the locations. On July 26, dozens of Paris homes and apartments were listed, from a US$1,511 (RM6,470) -a-night apartment just off the Champs Elysees to a US$53 (RM225) -a-night room in an apartment near the Gare du Nord train station.

Most of the results allow users to make reservations through Booking.com, although some direct would-be travelers to contact the landlord directly. It appears that the link on a listing to Booking.com isn't guaranteed to allow use of that site for a reservation: the pricey apartment near the Champs Elysees was no longer available via Booking.com, but the listing provided a phone number for the apartment.

When searching for vacation rentals, users can filter for number of guests. Many of the results don't show detailed information or even number of bedrooms, but that information is typically provided by Booking.com for the listings linked to it.

Travel-research firm Skift found Google was providing results for vacation rentals in Barcelona, Berlin, Bordeaux, Cologne, Dresden, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Madrid, Munich, Milan, Naples, Nice, Nuremberg, Paris, Palermo, Porto, Reims, Rome, Seville and Venice. 

Collectively we counted about 7,000 property listings," Skift reported . "That is a mere smattering of the potential rental listings in Europe."

Google described the vacation-rental listings for Europe as "a small-scale experiment" in its hotel-ads program.

"This involves a very limited amount of inventory on a trial basis," a company spokeswoman said.

"We hope to expand to more inventory, inventory types, and partners soon."

For Google, the move into vacation-rental listings fits the firm's push to become the one-stop-shop for all kinds of searches. The company has been providing flight information via Search since 2011, and in June launched a job-search 

Google relies heavily for revenue on the ads that appear with search results, and the rise of Amazon has made it crucial for Google to capture the maximum-possible number of Internet searches. Amazon dominates shopping searches for products, with 38% of Internet users in a recent survey saying they started shopping searches on the Seattle e-commerce giant's site, according to Power Reviews, a brand-review platform that partners with Google to provide star ratings on products in search results.

Thirty-five percent of surveyed online shoppers said they started their "purchase journey" on a search engine such as Google. — Mercury News/Tribune News Service

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