Airlines & Airports
How Do Travel Agents View Google Destinations?
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
For years, Google has been the go-to search engine for anything someone wants to look up, including travel destinations. However, now Google wants to get an even bigger piece of the travel market pie with its new Destinations search ability. Users simply use Google on their mobile phones to search for the continent, country or state that they want to travel to and add the word “destination” to see available flight and hotel prices. Google wants to eliminate the need to search between sites for comparative pricing.
“It wouldn't be the first time someone is trying to monopolize the holiday-booking market,” said Andrea Gaviria of Ibiza Summer Villas. “The mid-size companies like us are always threatened by these giants and we have to come to terms with the fact that they rule the online market. Our strength has been to focus on the locality specifics, which they don't really have access to, because they work far from the places they sell.”
Other travel agents firmly believe that Google doesn’t have the one thing that travel agents provide – customer service.
“Google and big box travel companies in general, such as Priceline and Orbitz, cannot operate at the volume they desire without sacrificing something in the way of good customer service,” said April Brown-Miller, travel specialist with Bromil Consulting in Newport News, Virginia. “It's a disservice to consumers when you value or promote a single service option to them. Variety ensures a fair and competitive market.”
Alan Rosenbaum, franchise owner and vacation specialist with CruiseOne in Johns Creek, Georgia, doesn’t see any problem with what Google is doing. “If Google sells travel, they will undoubtedly take market share from other online agencies, but it will not affect travel agents because we serve a totally different market,” he said. “Those who are satisfied with online booking are primarily shopping for price and want minimum human interaction. Those are not our clients. Travel agents can offer low prices, but we also offer advice, we have personal relationships with our clients, and there is a high loyalty factor. It’s almost as if online agencies and travel agents are working in different industries.”
When comparing the internet to a travel agent, Ernesto Ruben, social media and product development at the House of Travel said he remembers that, “the internet is for looking and travel agents are for booking.”
“Travelers need to understand that travel agents can save them money in most cases, even with the fee, as we have access to the same rates you will find online plus others only available to us,” he said.
However, when it comes to handling variables, such as flight cancellations or weather problems, Ruben doesn’t think that Google will be available for its customers. “You are on your own,” he said. “With an agent, you have a professional that can give you timely advice and always provide a plan B. Lastly, agents have traveled extensively, study destinations and have presentations permanently updating them on the latest products, trends and new destinations, so they are up-to-date with the latest information as well as provide you with invaluable local expertise and practical travel information.”
Only time will tell before it is known if Google’s Destinations affected the market and to what degree customers are relying on it to book their vacations.
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