Google tries hand at packaging travel

Hannah Edensor

Google is having a crack at bundling travel packages in a new bid for consumer affection.

Speaking at the Skift Forum Europe, Oliver Heckmann, a Google Vice President of Engineering who heads up the travel part of the search business, said the product is being tested in UK and German markets.

But it’s not just about selling holiday packages, apparently.

“It’s a differentiated experience,” said Heckmann. “It is a search tool that lets you buy the individual components separately or together. Consumers are not only shown bundled options.”

Google said it’s the first time a mega search giant has tried to pull off “dynamic packaging”, where instead of displaying packages built by wholesalers or operators, it shows hotel and flight packages pulled together by an automated process, per Skift.

The idea seems to be to enable travellers to look at the combination of hotel and air offerings, and decide for themselves if it’s the most “optimal choice”.

For context, Skift reported packages are the bread and butter of travel selling in Europe, while in the UK, roughly about half of the leisure trips are sold as packages.

Google told the crowd at the Skift Forum Europe that the trial will appeal to the “upper funnel” of the transaction process, giving travellers the freedom to decide on travel plans based on budget.

Packages are being pulled from a few major providers, per Skift, including Lufthansa Holidays and Air Berlin Holidays, while Google is currently in talks with TUI.

“We are basically going further than dynamic packaging and taking the information we have in our flight cache and our hotel cache and allowing the user to create ultimate combinations,” Heckmann told the Forum.

Google’s move comes on the heels of its product launch in Europe, where it added relevant intercity rail results between European destinations to search results.

This made it the first of the major travel metasearch platforms to integrate rail options into search listings in Europe.