Travel is one of the most profitable businesses online yet, so profitable that even might Google wants its hands through the elbows into the pie. For those still unaware, Google announced its intention to buy Frommer’s brand of travel guides to augment its own travel products on Monday, for a measly $25 million, a move that should not only worry, but threaten other travel businesses online.
With Frommer’s travel guides, Google gains access to one of the richest databases of travel content on the Internet. Since content marketing is the fuel that drives business in the modern social media driven web-based economy, Google’s next (and logical) move is to push its content first in Google.com search results, bumping down other publishers.
If Google integrates Frommer’s guides with Zagat, to offer “a better experience for Google users” you’d be a fool not to raise questions. And if you are a travel content publisher, you’d be a fool not to worry: Google will enter in direct competition with you.
What happens next for travel businesses like TripAdvisor, Yelp, WebMD and CitySearch can only be imagined. The conflict between TA and Google Places is not new: since long TripAdvisor asked Google to stop using content from TripAdvisor.com (like user-generated reviews of businesses such as hotels and restaurants) on its Google’s Place pages.
Now Google Places are Google+ Local pages, and the search engine giant needs quality content to populate them. Frommer’s guides are just the beginning, and even with no content, Google+ Local pages already rank higher in search than other related sites.
Naturally, travel companies get a bit uneasy. Competition was already strong, even without Google’s own travel services. Since they can no longer rely on Google search for a big percentage of their customers, travel companies are looking for other ways to attract online visits.
Luxury Retreats, a site offering luxury villa rentals in over 50 destinations worldwide, tapped MWW public relations to help guide the company’s strategic branding efforts and introduce communications strategies to drive awareness and visibility among targeted consumer and business audiences, and to drive conversation across traditional and social media.
And Luxury Retreats is not the only travel company turning to PR to generate more buzz. Lindblad Expeditions, a travel company that gained popularity mainly through its alliance with National Geographic, has recently tapped ID Media as its new media agency of record, to boost tourists’ interest in Lindblad’s eco-tourism and expedition offerings.
Earlier this year, Room Key, the travel startup driven by the world’s most popular hotel chains, retained Porter Novelli for public relations, influencer engagement and social media support.
If travel companies to step up their marketing efforts, competition and Google will crush them.