Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor tout benefits
28 JANUARY 2014 8:06 AM
Representatives from three of the largest distribution disruptors described why their efforts in the travel space can benefit hoteliers.
LOS ANGELES—Representatives from three of the biggest disrupters in the distribution space on Monday pitched themselves as partners to the thousands of hotel owners and operators in attendance at the open general session at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit.
The responses came after moderator Kathleen Matthews, Marriott International’s executive VP and chief global communications officer, asked whether Google’s, Facebook’s and TripAdvisor’s respective forays into the travel industry were done as a means of maximizing or “poaching” hoteliers’ revenues.
Rob Torres, managing director of travel at Google, said the search engine’s aim is the same today as it was when founded 15 years ago.
“At the end of the day it’s all about providing the right answer to the right question at the right time on the right device,” he said. That means partnering with hoteliers to drive more direct bookings, build brand awareness and better understand the mobile experience.
TripAdvisor’s head of industry relations, Brian Payea, said “it all comes down to the content on TripAdvisor.” The company works with its partners to help them better manage how they’re portrayed within said content.
The platform’s introduction of its metasearch capabilities was meant to create an even playing field for hoteliers, he said.
The team at Facebook has two main goals in the travel space, said Lee McCabe, the social network’s global head of travel. First, they help their hotel partners better target their customers. And second, they help them measure the return of those efforts.
That second goal is particularly crucial, he added. Nearly all industries require distribution partners to deliver their goods to their customers. “The thing missing right now for hotels is the measurement piece,” McCabe said.
Facebook is in the process of examining the value of each site and step of the booking funnel, he said.
Torres emphasized the importance of return on investment. Too often hoteliers simply ask, “What’s this going to cost me?” Instead they should focus on the ROI, he said.
“We make sure you understand that cost” down to the penny, Torres said of Google.
The executives also provided updates on each company’s strategic plans within the travel space.
Google’s goal remains improving the user experience, Torres said. “That goes to the bottom of everything we try to do. It’s not just in travel,” he said, pointing to Google Glass as an example.
Travel was a natural offshoot given its status as “one of the most heavily searched-for areas on Google,” he said.
The search engine has evolved from returning simple queues for hotel websites to now providing room availability and pricing information.
“It’s growing, and I think it’s very, very important,” Torres said of the company’s travel aspirations. “But it’s definitely just one cog because Google is into a lot of different things.”
Travel has emerged as one of the most important verticals for Facebook, McCabe said, adding the company has made numerous hires to properly staff its internal team.
“The general vision for Facebook is to make the world more open and connected,” he said.
For hoteliers, that means creating a more effective marketing platform built around people—not IP addresses or cookies, McCabe said. “We deal with real people and real identities. So building this platform is going to create a lot of opportunities for hotels.”
Facebook is becoming increasingly influential in the booking funnel, as its 1.2 billion users share more information about where they’ve stayed, he explained.
“That’s a big influence on your booking,” McCabe said of what he called the “wisdom of friends.”
TripAdvisor’s original mission is still the current mission, “which is to help travelers plan and have the perfect trip,” Payea said.
“We believe the content is absolutely key to that planning process, the sharing of that information. We’re staying very true to our core business, and that is as a media site,” he said.
The site continues to offer new tools to hoteliers to give all players the opportunity to participate, Payea said.
“We are looking for a lot of ways to improve that … and make it easier for the travelers to connect with the suppliers,” he said.