What will Google Hotel Finder become for hotels?

Google is making a big push for your business. I see its Hotel Finder project as a viable alternative to the OTAs’ channel offerings and their double-digit commission percentages. Although still in beta, Hotel Finder integrates Google Maps, Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) and other software tools to offer users a quality travel search experience. See it for yourself.

There’s already a lot of debate about Google’s debut as an immersive online travel experience. Google is not another OTA. It has repeatedly assured the industry that its goals will focus on distribution and integrating technology (Search, Social, Maps, Flights and the Hotel Finder product) to facilitate a more robust user experience from the early planning stages through to the trip itself, as well as post-travel sharing. The Hotel Finder interface can also be used effectively to facilitate direct bookings through a hotel’s alongside the OTAs, potentially having a huge financial impact on a hotel’s bottom line. How can a hotel participate?

Recently, I’ve been discussing this with Craig Wingate, CEO of Woodcrick Ventures. Partnered with the Austrian travel technology innovator Seekda, Woodcrick Ventures enables properties to push their rates and availability directly to Google, thereby navigating the arduous process of getting noticed on Hotel Finder, increasing direct bookings and using Google’s Hotel Price Ads — an AdWords counterpart exclusive to Hotel Finder.

Seekda is the technology platform that sends hotel rates and inventory in real time to Google for their promotion and use across all Google’s Hotel Price Ads products. Woodcrick is their exclusive representation for the United States as well as a worldwide reseller, with Seekda as one of the few contracted and certified technologies for connecting hotels directly with Google’s travel products.

Woodcrick employs a pure cost-per-click (CPC) model with no extra fees or commissions. Plus, it does not require hotels to switch their current booking engine or other technologies for the Seekda products, which can work alongside the hotel’s existing booking engine and channel management platform. Through its Gold Partner program, Woodcrick is actively aligning with key industry insiders to unveil this strategic model to prospective hotels in the United States and around the world.

Straightforward, no? The bottom line is that Hotel Finder gives hotels viable options to grow their electronic business without too much dependency on the OTAs. Woodcrick Ventures is one such choice to help accomplish immediate connectivity and the certified data push to ease the transition into this new channel.

So, why Hotel Finder? I first reached out to Craig to discuss Google’s impact on the industry at large. We both see it as a potential way to revolutionize the way hoteliers use online media — by enabling managers to bypass the middlemen and connect directly with eager travelers at the point of transaction. The benefits for hotels will no doubt increase as more customers discover the full scope and utility of Google’s travel products, including new functions and advanced search filters, and as Google’s penetration increases, where already more than 75% of users start their hotel or resort search.

Aside from the distribution cost savings, there’s another, more subtle effect when users search through Hotel Finder. By simply having customers land on a hotel’s website (which will be a more common occurrence than would similarly happen if a person searched through an OTA), it gives them the chance to experience the property’s branding and guest services prior to arrival. Additionally, reservations through a hotel’s allow managers to better act upon captured customer data. Lastly, once the consumer is engaged directly with the hotel, it is easier for a hotelier to provide the customer with opportunities for custom packages and extra services.

With these advantages, there appears to be plenty of territory for companies like Woodcrick Ventures to expand in tandem with the early adopter hotels. Although Hotel Finder has only seen a modest increase in usage over the past few quarters, Google is in it for the long haul. Once the product is given a final push with more integration and cross-promotion of Hotel Price Ads with other Google products, expect this search tool to be moving leaps and bounds as a new channel for hotels to operate.

What are your thoughts on Google Hotel Finder? Is it a game changer, or will it fade in the wind?