May 03, 2016

Will Google replace travel agents?


That was one of the questions travel advisors were asking last week at the Virtuoso Symposium, as Google took the stage to provide an update on what the search-engine giant is doing in the travel industry. The company also offered suggestions on what hotels should do to meet the complex new challenges of a digital world.

Pavelko began by admitting that the digital world doesn’t solve every travel challenge. And he even wondered aloud what an online digital guy like himself could tell travel agents and suppliers about their business to help them. On the other hand, Pavelko has held executive posts at Cendant, which at the time was the parent of such diverse travel companies as Avis, Budget, Wyndham, and Galileo, so he should know a little bit about how travel agents work. (And he also acknowledged he recently used a travel advisor to book a vacation to Greece.)

Google has been focused on what Pavelko called the “new travel consumer journey,” which breaks down into “micro-moments,” meaning every step that the consumer takes in the process of planning, buying, and experiencing travel, especially the digital interactions. He used his own trip-planning experience with a travel advisor as an example, where he communicated by email and exchanged links to websites to narrow down the hotels to be booked and develop unique local experiences.

Pavelko described micro-moments as ones where we reflexively turn to a device to act on a need—for example, the moment we want to book something or know something, as well as how we shop and interact. And Google is in a rather unique position to measure all of its users’ digital moments throughout the various travel phases and across a number of platforms and products.

Get the full story at Travel Market Report