Trade experts do not see Google’s impending entry into the package holiday market as a threat and say it will boost innovation. Google’s package product will search for combined flight and hotel deals and has been available to a proportion of users since the beginning of the year.
The search giant has partnered with technology firms Peakwork in Germany and Distribute Travel in the UK, which works with Thomson and online agents On The Beach and Teletext Holidays.
Andy Washington, Chief Executive of B2C Business at dnata Travel Europe, said the package holiday industry could handle one of the world’s biggest companies entering the travel sector, but warned the market is “complex”.
“It is already a very fragmented market, but we are happy to partner with them [Google],” said Mr Washington. “It will be an innovator, similar to Trivago or TripAdvisor. But package is a difficult place – TripAdvisor has seen that.”
Online travel deals website Kayak, which also uses Peakwork, said more competition would boost innovation.
Chief Technical Officer Giorgos Zacharia said Kayak had moved away from the dynamic packaging market it claimed Google would be entering, instead focusing on ready-made packages from other OTAs.
Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of Cheapflights, said Google would “add value” to the package sector, and he would closely monitor developments.
“Price comparison and search in package holidays is technically complex, and would benefit from innovation,” said Mr Shelton.
Asked if Google could muscle-in on the industry, Mr Washington said: “It’s a diverse enough market that the consumers will decide how to book. We don’t see it as a risk.”
Alan Bowen, Legal Adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, said high street agents should not be threatened.
“Google is still just an online tool with no customer service,” said Mr Bowen. “People still want to speak to a human being.”
By Ben Ireland from Travolution