Google’s Plans for Things to do

Is Google becoming an OTA? Will Things to do stay free? How are search result rankings determined? Director of Product Management for Google Travel fields questions in front of a packed Arival crowd

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As Google steps into the experiences marketplace with its Things to do platform, there has been a fair bit of speculation and apprehension about Google’s plans and intentions, and we at Arival have been watching closely.

Emmanual Marot, the Director of Product Management for Google Travel, spoke to a packed theater audience at Arival 360 | Las Vegas about Google’s plans for the platform. After he walked through a series of new feature announcements (see video clip below), Arival CEO Douglas Quinby sat down with Marot for an interview to challenge him with some crowd-sourced questions in front of a packed audience.

https://vimeo.com/778267801
Emmanual Marot gives an overview of the latest updates to Google Things to do at Arival 360 | Las Vegas

Here are a few of our key takeaways from what he shared:

1.  Google has no intention of becoming an OTA

 “No, never ever,” says Marot emphatically. “The business model of Google has been we make the information available, we link to partners, we have been able to build a decent business around this with ads, and so we have absolutely no business in being an intermediary.”

2.  Google Things to do business listings are coming for tour and activity operators “soon”

Google Things to do listings have been available for attractions since the program’s inception in August 2021. These listings provide links in the attraction’s Google business listing  directly to tickets available through the attraction’s website as well as to online travel agencies (OTAs) and other reseller sites.  Google will also include these links on tour and activity operator business listings  “within a matter of months.” Previously tours could only be listed on Google Things to do through their experiences module, if they included certain points of interest as part of the tour.  More on this here.

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3.  Search ranking for Google Things to do listings is based on more than price (but price is still one key factor)

Although price is an important factor, Marot says he ranking for tickets in Google Things to do — how high up an attraction operator’s ticket appears vs. OTAs and other third party resellers — includes other factors as well. “For example,” explains Marot, “for those who have claimed their business profile, the fact that there’s an official badge is very likely to boost the ranking of that booking link.”

As for how much the official site badge helps companies stand out over third-party listings, and how many clicks attractions with the badge draw in over other ticket sellers, Marot declines to provide an exact number but he promises “it’s impressive.”

4.  “Things to do” is still a work in progress… and Google is open to discussion about it.

Marot encourages operators to reach out and ask questions. “In all honesty, our product is still young,” Marot admits. “We know there are many pieces missing that we plan to include. It’s been surprising for us how complex this ‘Things to do’ booking space is, honestly. We have to learn from you, we have to adapt our product.”

5.  Google is optimistic about OCTO and Connectivity Standards

In reference to the complexities of the Things to do booking space, Marot suggests initiatives like OCTO can help. “My understanding is right now it’s a bit early,” says Marot of OCTO, “but we hope those kinds of initiatives will help streamline a way that this information can be enriched enough.”

OCTO (Open Connectivity for Tours, Activities & Attractions) is a new non-profit organization advocating for technical connectivity standards in the tours, activities and attractions industry to make online booking connections between operators, reservation technology and ticketing system providers, ticket resellers and OTAs easier and more efficient. More on that here.

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6.  Google plans to keep the self-serve editing tool simple

“There’s definitely a lot of limitations to the ticket editor but I would say it’s almost by design because we want it to be a simple product,” explains Marot of the new self-serve editing tool. The editor allows attractions — and soon, tour and activity operators — to manage their ticket listings (more on that here). “We really see that as a simple solution maybe for smaller businesses. Our ambition is not to create something with all the bells and whistles that the connectivity partners would provide.”

For companies that want to update multiple prices multiple times a week, appear on Google in addition to many OTAs, have access to more sophisticated data, receive alerts about listing problems, place ads within the Things to do modules and so on, Marot says integrating through connectivity partners is still the way to go. The Google Things to do Ads module is only accessible through connectivity partners.

7.  Google is getting on the video bandwagon

“Users want more visual content,” shares Marot. He notes that videos tend to rank higher because people engage more with them. Google is working on making their search results pages more visual, and videos will help with rankings.

Marot explains that they are seeing more and more users, after watching videos about destinations, go to search for things related to planning a trip. “It’s in our interest to try to bring those kinds of videos and make them more accessible on the search results page itself,” Marot explains.

8.  Google Things to do will “always” remain free

“Always, always” Marot emphasizes. “It will remain free but that’s kind of the DNA of the Google Search engine’s success.”


For more on Google Things to do from Emmanual Marot’s presentation and interview, watch the full recording of The Google View on Things to do at Arival 360 | Las Vegas on demand with an Insider Pro Access membership.

Join us at Arival 360 | Berlin in March 2023, where experts will be hosting in-depth workshops on Google Things to do.

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