It could be travel websites’ worst nightmare — Google moving into direct competition on their turf. This week the word is that Google is partnering with hotels so that people will be able to take a sneak peek at their hotel on Google.
One of the hotels who announced the partnership is Best Western International. It is going to have all 2,200 of its hotels in North America accessible on Google Business Photos. All of its hotels are going to feature online tours on Google by the end of next year.
Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which runs Radisson, Radission Blue and Country Inns and Suites, in December started a pilot program that features the service with its establishments in Miami, Washington D.C., and Chicago.
Google’s Business Photos feature has 360 degree tours that utilize the Google Street technology. Many businesses are using the feature, which was launched in 2010, but now more hotels are starting to use it.
Google Business Photos will allow the prospective customer to look at the hotel almost as if they were there. All of the images will be taken by Google-certified photographers. The pictures will be stitched into a 360 degree view with the latest panoramic technology. Travelers will be able to see the images when they do a search on Google Search, Google+,Google Maps and Google Hotel Finder. Also, they will be able to do these tours on PC, smartphone or tablet.
Having good photos to see is a very important part of what people rely on when deciding which hotel to use. While many hotels have used virtual tours in the past on their sites, the consistency of the offerings on Google will likely make the search giant the dominant provider of such services for hotels.
There is no doubt that this new feature is a dagger aimed at the heart of top travel websites, such as Orbitz and Travelocity. What could be even worse for them is that Google will give customers the ability to pay for their hotel with Google Wallet. Google users will have the ability to pay for their hotel on their smart phone with just a few clicks.
After they choose their hotel with Google Hotel Finder, the customers who are on smart phones will be able to click a “Buy with Google” icon, if they have a Google Wallet account.
Google, which has been also working on penalizing websites that use paid link networks, is likely going to see a good deal of increased revenue at the expense of hotel websites.