Bookings through Google are undergoing some major changes, so if you are a tourism operator and want to make sure your business is not going to miss out, keep reading.
Google is phasing out its 'Reserve with Google' (RwG), which
means saying goodbye to the "Buy Tickets" button. RwG enabled tours,
activities, and attractions operators to capture bookings in their Google My
Business listings without users having to navigate to other websites. Online
travel agencies (OTAs) and partners processed the bookings for Google on the
back end for a commission.
But don't worry, Google will not leave you in the lurch, instead they are exploring new ways to help operators get more visibility through organic search. This has led to the latest pilot program from Google called 'Things to do'.
How 'Things to do' Works
When someone searches for an attraction (or other things to do)
in Google, Google Search results generates a list of booking options for those
businesses, with the price and a link to book via each channel website. Previously,
you could not list your website and were forced to give a commission to OTAs
who would own the listings of your products.
Through the 'Things to do' program, Google allows operators to
list their website alongside other reseller listings. It enables a direct
referral straight to your website or booking page, avoiding commission and
booking through a third party. Users will be able to clearly identify it is
your site with an 'Official Site' badge added next to your link for
You may ask why has Google chosen this direction?. Well, back in
March Google issued the following statement on the switch stating, "This
is part of our larger effort to ensure people have access to all offers
available to them by providing free and easy ways for businesses to connect
with people on Google. We made it free for partners to participate in Google
Flights early last year, and in April we opened our Shopping tab to free
listings for online retail. Over time, we will continue building this open
platform, so that all partners will have even more opportunities to highlight
their information and help people book a flight, find a place to stay, or
explore a new destination."
The links themselves will be free ticket booking (not paid ads)
so Google will not be compensated for outbound clicks. This is similar to
Google's recent efforts to enable partners to participate in both their Hotels
and Flights products for free.
What are the benefits of Google's 'Things to do'?
With 83% of mobile bookings happening after users
researching on their smartphones, operators need to be where their audience is.
If a customer is looking at you on Google, there's already a strong intent to
book. Typically, they would then click on the cheapest listing (or even just
the first one) and then book via the OTAs. Having your website appear visibly
on this initial list is a game-changer. It does not add any additional steps to
the user journey – it just ensures you are a highly visible part of it.
The pilot program will allow this as well as full control of
customer acquisition. It means you will own the ‘Official Site’ button, the customer, booking journey, and
data from beginning to end. For tours,
activities and attraction operators this is a huge win for regaining brand
control and increasing direct consumer bookings.
You set the pricing, content, and distribution of your products
and have visibility of end-to-end analytics to understand your customer journey
Most notably however, (especially given the year we've just had) there
are fewer commissions, intermediaries and costs associated with bookings which
means no more chipping away at your profit margins.
How can I be part of Google Things to do?
Via Livn's integration with Google, we are the pipe that can get
your inventory activated into Google environment. We power the 'Official Site' button.
Livn is not a reservation system nor an OTA. We do not take a
commission. Instead, we directly support you and your business by bridging the
gap between you and your customers. We are a connectivity hub connecting Google
to the world's leading tour and activity reservation systems so they do not
have to create single integrations.
We will assist you in claiming and creating your official spot
in the Google Things to do program regardless of whether you are using a
reservation system or not.