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Google wants lots of hotels listing their rooms so that users have “lots of options,” said David Pavelko, Google’s director of travel partnerships.

A recent desktop search for “New York Hilton Midtown” reveals Google’s new approach. To the right of Google’s traditional links, a box featured hundreds of customer

This also reduces Google’s dependence on two giant travel advertisers. Some hotel operators are wary of sharing too much information with Google, fearing the company will become a powerful intermediary between them and their customers. Intercontinental Hotels Group, PLC isn’t participating in Google’s program for the virtual tours, even as it buys Google advertising. An IHG executive says the company likes to reserve such content for its own site to encourage travelers to book directly, which saves the company money. “Any time you’re dealing with Google it pays to be careful and know what its long term strategy is,” says Tom Botts, chief customer officer at Denihan Hospitality Group, which is testing the virtual tour at its Miami property. The relationship between Google and online travel agencies can be even more tense. They fear Google’s moves to establish direct relationships with hotels, said one executive of Orbitz Worldwide Inc. Expedia and TripAdvisor are members of FairSearch.org an adovacy group that highlights what it sees as Google’s anticompetitive practice of promoting its own services in search results. Even so, they remain big spenders on Google advertising because of the valuable leads. Google has been slow to remake travel search results after buying flight search engine ITA Software in 2011. But there is more money at stake in hotel advertising, because there is more competition for travelers: A city served by a halfdozen airlines may have dozens of hotels. Google’s stepped up efforts around hotel search put it on a collision course with TripAdvisor, which like Google links out to other sites where customers actually book lodging. But even those other sites, which include Priceline’s Booking. com and Expedia’s Hotels.com, may be increasingly sidelined as Google moves to establish more direct relationships with hotels themselves. The aggressiveness in hotel search is a part of a broader push to provide more information on Google’s own pages, beyond links to other sites. That is particularly important as more users search on smartphones, with their smaller screens and limited bandwidth. The hotel strategy is similar to Google’s “product listing ads” for online shoppers that includes prices and images.

reviews, a “see inside” button that offers a virtual tour, and a spot for searchers to enter desired check-in and checkout dates. Similar results appear for the same search on Google Maps and increasingly on smartphones. Once travelers enter the dates, Google’s new hotel-price ads appear. Industry executives expect hotels and travel agencies to compete for these ads, and to pay more than for traditional Google ads since they will know more about the traveler’s plans.

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InRLA At Your Service: April 2014

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InRLA At Your Service: April 2014