How Google Hotel Search is Ending the OTAs Era

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Oct 20, 2021 | Hotel Management | Reading Time: 5 minutes

Google has just handed travelers its new hotel search site, known as Google Hotel Search.

Previously, the results appeared in the search engine and directed users to a page on Google Maps. Now, users can search and book rooms directly on the Google Travel website.

First tested on mobiles, the new version is also compatible with desktops.

Just as it is possible to search and compare airline tickets on Google Flights without having to enter hundreds of travel sites, your future guest can search for accommodations without accessing websites such as Booking, Expedia, or even your website.

For hoteliers, the new platform has its pros and cons. Like OTAs, works through commissions rather than CPC (cost per click), as was done in the previous version of the search engine, Google Hotel Finder. Before, the hotel paid for every traveler’s click on the quote button, which didn’t always end with a reservation.

How Google Hotel Finder Worked

Google Hotel Finder was launched in 2011 for the North American market only. In this first version of the search engine, the search for hotels was done directly by the browser or by Google Maps, instead of on its own platform.

Retired in 2015, Google Hotel Finder went through several changes to become the search engine we know today. See below the comparison between the 2015 version and the Google Hotel Search redesign:

Google Hotel Search - comparison between the first version and the second one

Much better, isn’t it? The new search engine has a range of filters to facilitate the traveler’s decision-making, in addition to the possibility of booking directly through Google.

The company has also been launching improvements to Google Hotel Ads, formerly Google Price Ads. For example, now travelers can search by voice using Google Assistant on cell phones, TVs, speakers, in the car, and on smartwatches.

How Google Hotel Search Works

The traveler will start with a search for hotels in location x, such as “hotels in Miami”. After the paid results, the user has access to the simplified table of hotels, with the Maps view on the right.

In the right panel, the traveler can choose to have the results updated as the map is moved around. Thus, you can limit your search by a specific region in Miami or by proximity to landmarks such as Little Havana.

Google Hotel Search in 2021

When the user clicks on one of the hotels on the list, a new page with accommodation details opens, with a row of photos taken by the hotel or visitors, and a link to the official website.

Google Hotel Search Call to action on the page

The most important buttons are the two calls to action highlighted in blue. By clicking on one of the two, the user is sent to the “prices” menu to check availability on various advertiser websites.

How Google Hotel Search Filters Work

Initially, we can classify the results into “relevance”, “lowest price” and “Highest rating”. The traveler can choose from dozens of other filters available at Google Hotel Search, which include a menu of amenities including:

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Free breakfast
  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Kid-friendly
  • Pet friendly
  • Free parking
  • Parking
  • Room service
  • Fitness center
  • Air conditioner
  • Pool

The traveler can also filter the hotel by the number of stars or review ratings, only view deals, or set a price range within their budget.

Google’s Product Management VP, Richard Holden explained the company’s logic behind the “deals” filter in a blog post. In his words:

“ The filter uses machine learning to highlight hotels where one or more of our partners offer rates significantly lower than the usual price for that hotel or similar hotels nearby”.

advertisers of the hotel

Here’s the catch … to qualify as one of the “partners”, you need to have a Google My Business account and advertise through Hotel Ads. Otherwise, special rates for direct bookings on your website will not appear.

New Sustainability Filter

To help and encourage hotels to become more sustainable, Google partnered up with international NGOs, which will make the hotels that adopt green practices in their daily routines visible on Google Hotel Search. In addition, it will be possible to verify which amenities and health protocols follow these practices.

Information about practices must be manually entered by the hotel owner or manager in the company profile. They will be available with the property’s general information as well as in the new filter added to Google Hotel Search.

Google Hotel Search sustainability filter

Eco Certificates

In addition to the information provided by the hotel itself, NGO partners will be responsible for certifying hotels that prove these practices. To be considered sustainable, the hotel must have significant impacts in the following categories:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Water conservation
  • Recycling
  • Sustainable Sourcing

With the filter, it is also possible to search for hotels that use products from local vendors, such as ethically raised eggs and seafood, sustainable hygiene products, and more.

google hotel search sustainability certificate

Booking Through Google Hotel Search

It’s not always possible for a reservation to be made directly through Google. However, if the tool is available, the traveler can log into their Gmail account to pay via Google Pay.

Once the payment is processed by the travel agency or hotel, the guest will receive an email from Google and another from the advertiser. Google is even part of the online customer service, providing an online contact form.


👉How do you provide excellent customer service in the hospitality industry before travelers become your guests? Learn tips to boost direct bookings: [Hotel Customer Service]


Booking through Google is only possible if the hotel or OTA is connected to the Room Booking Module, another Hotel Ads tool. To advertise the room using this model, the hotel chooses to participate in the regular bidding or commission system.

The OTA Market Just Gained a New Competitor

It’s official: Google is off the bench and is playing the game! With all these features, especially the possibility to book directly through the platform, we can say that Google is, in fact, an OTA in the making.

But let’s not make hasty presumptions! Even though you’ve just learned how to get around the commissions paid to Booking, you still have to keep an eye on Google Hotel Search.

Google has a few steps to go, such as allowing the guest to cancel their reservation directly through them and not the agency or hotel. Even so, it’s a smart move to include Google Hotel Search in your distribution channel management.

If you’ve never considered investing in Hotel Ads, now is the time. With a clean design and fast page loading, Google is certainly a strong alternative for the traveler to book a room.

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