Tnooz broke a heart-stopping rumour this week that Google may be planning to buy TripAdvisor. Right now that’s all it is - a rumour. But with TripAdvisor having considerable interest in the holiday rentals market, it left us pondering the implications of such a deal.
TripAdvisor owns Flipkey in the US and Holiday Lettings in the UK. Were these sites to fall into the hands of Google, could they hurt competing holiday rental websites?
“Do no evil”
This has always been Google’s mantra but doing no evil doesn’t mean ignoring a mountain of property data. Google’s strength is their ability to index complex information and make it accessible to ordinary people.
Their engineers would surely salivate over finding great ways to use volumes of holiday property data. (They’re already trying it with flights following the acquisition of ITA Software.)
However! While they love data, they don’t generally get their hands dirty servicing customers. Google does algorithms - they will have no interest in talking direct to owners when they have established brands who already do the grunt work of building and managing rental portfolios.
So if Google Rentals probably isn’t on the cards, what is?
We’re fans of Google and, perhaps naïvely, don’t think they’d compromise their values by deliberately manipulating search results or paid advert positions in favour of companies they own. It’d be a reputation killer.
That doesn’t mean they couldn’t grease the wheels.
Executives in companies newly owned by Google would very quickly start interacting with Google staffers. Paid advertising would effectively become subsidised via group accounting. Data and websites would be streamlined and improved on the basis of insights from Google engineers, improving organic search visibility.
There’s nothing dishonest about this but it would give Google’s subsidiaries key advantage.
Who should worry?
España Breaks is a small, specialist site with a loyal local following. These kinds of deals go way over our heads.
The rumour would cause discomfort within the global sites: HomeAway are an obvious potential loser. For example in the UK market, Holiday Lettings would certainly win a key advantage over Holiday Rentals and Owners Direct. Perhaps not immediately, but it would happen in time.
The permutations are endless and it is, after all, just a rumour.
However it would be interesting to know what owners think: Would you be drawn to a rental website backed by Google?