Arival first reported back in March that Google planned to wind down Reserve With Google for tours, activities and attractions sometime this year. Now, they have officially shared the date: August 1.
Reserve With Google has been the technology platform powering the “Buy Tickets” button and booking path via operators’ Google My Business Listings. It is this button and booking path that will cease come August 1, according to the recent article in Skift and confirmed by a Google spokesperson.
It could be easy to take away from the headline that Google is pulling back from tours and attractions, but Skift’s article goes on to discuss the company’s plans in more detail.
Google has been developing its new Things To Do strategy for some time. We believe the new initiative represents a bigger commitment to the sector from the search company. Here are five things every operator should know about the coming changes:
1) The End of Booking, the Beginning of Linking
The booking path on Google for tours, activities and attractions will end, and Google will be adding referring links on some My Business listings of operators.
“We intend to pilot the introduction of ticket booking links on Google Search, so users can easily compare options for visiting their favorite attractions,” Google’s spokesperson said.
Those links will go to partner websites to enable users to click through and book attraction tickets. Those links will be powered by OTAs and reservations technology companies, according to a Google spokesperson.
The change will not happen on all operator Google My Business listings. Each listing will continue to have the link to the operator website homepage at the top.
2) Your Google My Business Listing May — or May Not — Have Those Links
If your Google listing has a Buy Tickets button today, that does not necessarily mean the new direct booking links will appear on August 1. Google is working primarily with its existing OTA and tech partners to implement the new Things To Do referral model.
You may see links powered by some OTAs, if you list on those OTAs. If you use a technology provider that is also a Google Things To Do partner, you may be able to have links to book directly on your website.
3) If You Want to Participate, Ask Your Restech Provider
Many of the OTAs and reservations technology companies who were partners for Reserve With Google are continuing to partner on this new initiative. Ask your technology provider if they are a partner, and if you can participate.
4) Links Will be Free — For Now
A Google spokesperson confirmed those links will be free, and referred us to this March 2021 announcement about a similar initiative for hotels. However, advertising will certainly be on the horizon. According to one partner, speaking off the record: “They are basically going to be following in the same footsteps as hotels with their metasearch. Then eventually the OTAs can bid to have featured placement.”
Google hotel listings already feature sponsored placements. We wrote about this in detail, and what the implications could be, in our March article breaking the news about Google’s wind-down of Reserve.
Google has already been experimenting with advertising in operator My Business listings. We have found several examples of OTA advertising directly in listings of key attractions, including the Sydney Opera House, the San Diego Zoo, the Empire State Building and Universal Studios.
The Google My Business listing of the Empire State Building, below, has an ad from Groupon right below the Buy Tickets button.
It remains unclear how the advertising will work, and how operators may be able to participate for featured placement, but in the words of one OTA executive on where Google is headed: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
5) Google is Leaning In — Not Pulling Back — From Tours, Activities and Attractions
There are still a lot of questions about how this will evolve, and Google itself is continuing to test. But Google Travel has taken clear steps over the past two years that indicate its intent to capitalize on the opportunity in tours, activities and attractions. We will continue to watch closely and help you keep track of the changes.