Google upgrades holiday travel search, offers hotel discounts

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One of Google Flight's latest features uses an analysis of historical flight prices to help U.S. users find deals ahead of Thanksgiving.
One of Google Flight's latest features uses an analysis of historical flight prices to help U.S. users find deals ahead of Thanksgiving.

Google has enhanced its flight and hotel search capabilities ahead of the U.S. holiday travel season, while concurrently announcing that it has started offering exclusive hotel discounts to paying users of Google One cloud storage.

Among Google's flight search upgrades is a new holiday-centric infographic tool, which uses a statistical analysis of historical flight prices across 25 popular U.S. routes to indicate whether fares are higher or lower than usual during the Thanksgiving, December and New Year's travel periods. The infographic tool is also available for hotel searches, showcasing destinations that have unusually low hotel prices during those holidays.

Google has also launched three in-product offerings across its flight and hotel search platforms, including a Thanksgiving-focused pricing feature for U.S. airfare searches. Available on mobile, this Google Flights feature provides insight on whether the price of a Thanksgiving flight is higher or lower than usual based on when a consumer is shopping and their dates of travel.

"The two main stress points that users have while booking flights is that they don't know what a good price is for a flight, and once they have an idea of a good price, then they don't know the right time to book. This is always the case when you're booking travel, but especially when you're booking travel for the holidays," said Google product manager Thijs van As during a press event in New York last week.

The second new in-product feature is targeted toward travelers with some flexibility in their planning and uses the Google Flights platform to highlight fares to various destinations that are priced significantly lower than average.

This feature, which will be available globally both on mobile and desktop, will focus on fares that are at least 30% below typical prices.

On the hotels side, Google has similarly debuted an in-product price insights feature, which will be available globally on mobile. Travelers can use the feature to track hotel prices over time and see if a price is lower or higher than usual. They can also compare one hotel's price to that of other similar hotels during the same time period, and the feature has filters that allow for more customized information.

"Six out of 10 U.S. travelers expect travel companies to give them information tailored to them based on their preferences or past behavior," noted Richard Holden, Google vice president, product management. "It's not just about providing all prices and options to them. It's about doing analysis across all those prices and options. We want to help them make the right choice for them and their particular needs."

Meanwhile, Google's move to provide exclusive hotel discounts marks a notable strategic shift for the tech giant. The discounts are currently only available to subscribers of the company's Google One cloud storage service, with Google also looking to add offers for hotel upgrades, such as free breakfast. (Google One cloud storage paid plans start at $2 a month for 100 gigabytes.)

Looking forward, Google is also exploring entry into the travel packages space, with what Holden called a "flights plus hotels product" in development.

"Traditionally, people think of packages as flight plus hotel plus ground transport, exclusive meals, everything. We're really starting with just flights and hotels, and we may add those other pieces," he explained. "If you do searches, you can find that flight and hotel combination now, but we're going to feature and surface that more."

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