Step by step, inch by inch, Google is becoming more and more central to the tours and activities business. We have already seen this manual.
Travel online this week
The typical use case for Google Maps doesn’t involve people planning their entire vacation within the app, but they can selectively search for flight information, compare hotel prices, and – Google announced Tuesday – mix and match attraction ticket prices.
No, Google Maps isn’t a great app yet, but it’s moving in that direction and boasting 1 billion people per month using the feature. Search “New York” in Google Maps and you’ll find restaurants, hotels, museums, transit options, pharmacies, ATMs, and now things to do.
In a blog post, Richard Holden, VP of Travel Products at Google, wrote: “Last year we started showing ticket booking links on search when people search for attractions, like the Boston Tea Party Museum, to help them quickly compare admission prices across different partners.Now, this ticket information is also available on Google Maps, where travelers often plan their itinerary for the day.
In other changes announced on Tuesday, Google is set to introduce booking links to Google Search for attraction-related tours, such as a combo tour of the Vatican and Colosseum in Italy. Previously, Google had booking links to attraction tickets, such as the Vatican, and some related tours were mixed up.
With changes to Google search, attraction ticket booking links and related tours are separated into separate modules so they don’t compete for attention, and users can easily compare tours. Google also plans to introduce this feature to Maps.
Google currently only offers these booking links when connected to attractions, and doesn’t provide them for “food tours in Rome”, for example, but you can bet it will happen.
Google has upped its advertising game for things to do
Importantly, Google announced that it has expanded the reach and format of text ads for things to do that it initially launched in 32 cities in September 2021.
With the expansion, more graph visits and activity ads are triggered with relevant queries in 24 countries, which would be a bigger revenue opportunity for Google.
Pictured is an image of Google ads from Viator and Tripadvisor (both are Tripadvisor brands), triggered on mobile by a query for “things to do in Miami.”
Parallels to Google Hotel Guide
Google discontinued its Reserve with Google feature for tours and activities in August 2021, and a month later moved to a system of paid ads and free booking links for attractions, aggregators and operators.
This combination of ads and free links is similar to how it changed Google Hotels in March 2021, supplementing its paid booking links for years from online travel agencies and hotels with free links for a sometimes long range of suppliers.
In another side move, Holden detailed how attractions operators can now update their own ticket prices through their own Google Business Profile. Previously, price updates could only be made on Google via a feed tied to a connectivity partner, so the DIY feature is probably most relevant for smaller operators. Holden wrote that these company profile updates will soon be available for tours and activity operators, not just the attractions themselves.
Again, this is what Google used to do for hotels, allowing them to manually update their rates in their Google Business Profiles if that’s how they wanted to do it.
Google has plenty of time and money to develop robust functionality for things to do, making it a vital part of the fabric of the industry with its grip on search, knowledge of user behavior, and talent. Over the years, Google has worked its way into the travel ecosystem for flights and hotels, and patiently built vacation rentals (though Airbnb not participating), things to do and, recently, trains in Europe.
Google has plenty of time to solidify its position in channels and businesses – unless regulators say otherwise.
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