Armed with machine learning, Google Hotels to take on Ixigo, Trivago, Skyscanner

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Updated: March 17, 2019 5:33:15 PM

While Google Hotels might eat into the share of hotel comparison and aggregation portals such as Ixigo, Trivago, Skyscanner but for marketplaces such as OYO, MakeMyTrip, and Yatra it would continue to remain another channel to acquire more users.

The new features, announced earlier this month, includes “deals” filter for competitive rates, and amenities available at the hotel.

Google Hotels, the hotel meta search and booking engine from Google, might be disrupting the online hotel marketplace aggregation and comparison market in India that has players including Ixigo, Trivago, Skyscanner etc. Google Hotels recently added new features to become a complete aggregation and comparison platform that would allow travelers to not just search for online hotels for booking but also discover the best price available across different marketplaces and amenities available at that particular hotel. The new features, announced earlier this month, includes “deals” filter for competitive rates, and amenities available at the hotel.

This is similar to platforms like Ixigo that helps users compare and book hotels from more than 100 travel marketplaces such as Cleartrip, OYO, Yatra, MakeMyTrip etc.

“Google has been doing aggregation on the hotel side for quite a few years. It is our competitor. They (new features) might be just incremental improvements on an existing product,” Ixigo’s CEO and Co-founder Aloke Bajpai told Financial Express Online. Bajpai, however, didn’t comment on how it would impact Ixigo’s business.

Comments from Trivago on this development would be also be added as and when received.

“This (Deals) filter uses machine learning to highlight hotels where one or more of our partners offer rates that are significantly lower than the usual price for that hotel or similar hotels nearby,” Richard Holden, Vice President, Product Management, Travel, Google said in a company’s blog post.

“You can also view a hotel’s highlights—like a fancy pool, if it’s a luxury hotel, or if it’s popular with families—with expanded pages for photos and reviews curated with machine learning,” he added.

Another Channel

Nonetheless, for hotel marketplaces such as MakeMyTrip, OYO, Yatra etc., Google Hotels would continue to remain another channel to gain user traction. In fact it wouldn’t change anything for these hotel marketplaces until Google itself allows booking within Google Hotels. So far, even with new features, a user is redirected to the respective marketplace to pay for the booking and close the transaction.

“It (Google Hotels) is a facilitator and it is good for OYO and similar platforms. When large companies exhaust out of the original businesses they keep trying newer things. However, it is certainly a competitor to companies like Trivago,” said Siddharth Ladsariya, angel investor and director at Everest Flavours. Ladsariya, along with his father Anand Ladsariya, has so far invested in around 100 startups such as OYO, Ola, Myntra, etc.

“It will be a very low and minimal affiliate kind of a model. Everyone will largely benefit out of it and aggregators are not getting disrupted here. It is just an improved version of SEO because at the end it takes you to the respective website to complete the transaction. It doesn’t change anything for anybody,” said Madhukar Sinha, Founding Partner, India Quotient.

Moreover, online hotel booking is just a part of the overall experience of staying at the hotel. Since Google Hotels isn’t a full-stack platform where it allow users to book within the website and has a customer care service to address users’ queries (at least in India), the last mile of the user experience is still fulfilled by these marketplaces.

“There are much more issues to staying in a hotel than just booking it online. If I am able to book a hotel from Google and then I have to face some problem at the hotel, then I cannot do anything about it. So there is a service element to this online travel agency (OTA)-play in India at least unlike if I am booking via from some country in Europe that will take care of all that for me,” said Sinha.

While Google Hotels redirects users to other websites to complete the booking “but there is often an option to book right on Google for Travelocity or Agoda, for example,” said travel news portal Skift. Travelocity and Agoda are OTAs based in the US and Singapore respectively.

The global online travel booking market is expected to be worth $1,955 billion by 2026 from $765 billion in 2017, growing at a CAGR of around 12.1 per cent between 2018 and 2026, said a report by Zion Market Research.

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