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

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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.
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.


28-30 APRIL 2025

Insider Pro Access Members Save 20%

THE event of the year for the European in-destination experiences industry

Save up to €910 with the Super Early Bird ticket

Learn More

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.

Arival 360 | SAN DIEGO 2024

30 September – 3 October 2024

Insider Pro Access Members Save 20%

THE event of the year for solutions-focused In-Destination Experience
creators and sellers

Save up to $660 with the Spring Savings ticket

Learn More

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.


Sign up to receive insights tailored for the in-destination industry as well as updates on Arival.

Sign Up
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


already a member?

Lost your password?


Become an Arival Insider

Included in Free Membership

Included in Arival Pro Membership

The Arival on-demand video library archive
Access to the entire library of over 150 video sessions and webinars

Short, digestible research & trends reports delivering insights into our industry, such as The Tour Operator Outlook for 2021. articles
Topical articles about marketing, tech, operator business and operator stories in all areas of tours, activities & attractions & experiences

Job board access
Find a job from our regular listings, post a resume to the talent network and learn strategies from the job resources articles

New webinars
Helpful, instructional sessions covering subjects such as Mastering Facebook Ads, Grow Your Business and How To Work With OTAs — topics to help advance your business.

Discounts on all Arival in-person events
20% Discount on all Arival in-person events (save up to $300)* based on business type

Arival ProShield – Insurance program
Access to tailored insurance solutions by Granite Insurance is available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access Members. Insider Pro Access Members also have access to a suite of resources from Granite Insurance including templates, forms and other informative documents.

Insiders Pro Access member exclusive webinars
Paid membership-only webinars to deepen your understanding of important industry topics.

Job postings & talent directory
Post jobs & connect with candidates most applicable to your business.

Private roundtables to connect, learn and engage
Small, focused and intimate discussions exclusive to Arival Insider Pro Access members.

Full access to Arival’s library of in-depth reports
Up to date, deep analysis of tourism topics ranging from Self-guided Tours to Sales & Distribution Trends and Outlooks, based on the data that defines the industry.

The latest on-demand videos
Over 350+ on-demand videos featuring hot topics in tours, activities & attractions

Insider discounts in digital marketing, tech, e-learning, and more
Save money on additional tools, services and learnings you need to run your business. Exclusive to paid members.

Membership Overview

At Arival, we believe travel can make the world a better place. Our mission is to establish and inspire a diverse community of individuals and companies in the In-destination Industry by providing opportunities to gain insight, share knowledge and build connections. To make it possible for true collaboration, creativity, innovation, and idea exchange to thrive, we are committed to facilitating a welcoming and respectful community for all. This Conference Code of Conduct shares our community expectations and applies to all attendees, employees, exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and other participants at Arival- produced and sponsored events. We empower all participants in our community to actively engage in creating a friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.

Arival’s core values include the following, and create an expectation for conduct at our events and in online community spaces:

We demonstrate a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We value integrity and strive to consistently interact with others in ways that are authentic, ethical, and fair.
We are dedicated to transparency, committing to clear, open and honest communication.
We actively pursue and advocate for inclusion, diversity and representation of varying cultural backgrounds, perspectives and ideas

Arival welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, religion (including religious dress and grooming), marital status, domestic partner status, genetic information, age, national origin or ancestry, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

Accordingly, participants must refrain from displaying any demeaning, harassing, aggressive, or intimidating behavior or materials that would interfere with others’ experience and participation in our community.

If you witness or are subjected to inappropriate or disruptive behavior or have any other concerns, notify an Arival staff member as soon as possible.

Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Arival reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove any party from any event or community space at any time when participation or behavior create a disruption or hinder the event or enjoyment of the event by other participants. All determinations are at the sole discretion of Arival, and the decision of the Arival team will be final. Severe breaches of this Conference Code of Conduct may result in disqualification from participating in future events. Individuals expelled due to violating this Conference Code of Conduct will not be eligible for a refund or other consolation.

If you have questions regarding this Conference Code of Conduct or its implementation, please contact us at [email protected].