Search engine giant Google Inc. introduced a special hotel search engine, still in beta form, called Hotel Finder on Thursday.
The search engine is still in an “experimental” stage, Google says, and so far only features hotel locations in the United States. Similar to Google Maps, users can search for hotels in any location and click on dots that pull up information about hotels. Users can also compare a hotel’s rate to what Google calls its historical average.
“You may have already seen hotel prices from those partners on Google.com and Google Maps, and they’re also providing the price and availability data for this experimental product,” said Deanna Yick, global communications and public affairs spokeswoman at Google. “Our system automatically calculates the average price of a hotel using historical price data from these partners, and compares that average with the current price for the user’s selected dates.”
There is no direct booking on the site, but rather a list of online travel agencies and the hotel website along with the booking price for each.
Hospitality e-commerce experts are split as to how much impact Hotel Finder will have on hotel room rates or online travel agency website traffic and bookings.
“Research says the average traveler will look at up to 20 different websites before booking a reservation,” said Scott Van Hartesvelt, a partner at GCommerce Solutions. “So the idea that someone will start there and end there without going anywhere else is hard for me to believe.”
However, Max Starkov, president and CEO at HeBS Digital, said that online travel agencies could lose traffic to Hotel Finder, especially Kayak.com because some consumers only visit these websites for initial research and then book on the hotel’s own website.
“Kayak claims 25% of users just research hotels, so at least part of this 25% will go to Google,” Starkov said. “So we can say that maybe up to 10% of Kayak users will switch to Google Hotel Finder once it becomes more available, and people learn about such things very fast.”