Google rules out travel industry competitor

ABTA Travel Convention: Google’s travel arm has reassured the travel industry at its annual Abta conference that it has no plans to compete in the booking market.

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Google’s UK head of travel Nigel Huddleston told delegates at the convention: “We have no intention of entering the booking space” and stressed that online travel agents such as Expedia were “really important partners”.

However, new Google products such as Flight Search that are currently in the experimentation phase and only available in the US did prompt concern.

Flight Search allows users to see which airline choices are available between destinations and shows price, schedules and flight travel time alongside maps of the relevant area.

The tool is designed to serve up answers in three seconds.

Huddleston said that Flight Search did provide a link to the airline web page where a booking could be made but this was no different from any search term served up by Google.

He made clear that airlines did not pay for a priority listing via Flight Search but the results were served based on a combination of flight travel time and price.

He also demonstrated other products on trial in the US that may have implications for the travel industry, such as the Google Goggles Android app, which when presented with a photograph of a building identifies it and serves up a search page of results.

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