Google will enter the travel sector within 18 months in a move which could “take out” large online travel intermediaries, predicted Travel Weekly columnist and financial journalist David Stevenson.
Stevenson, speaking at the Aito Overseas Conference 2014, warned the travel industry to be ready for Google’s market entry, by as soon as the end of the next year, and encouraged niche travel companies to engage with the search engine.
He said: “What we are waiting for is the emergence of Google as a distribution channel. We reckon in no more than a year and a half, Google will properly enter the travel industry.
“Google can only operate where there are tens of millions of customers. It cannot operate in niche markets which is why I think it is your ally. You provide specialist content and Google likes that and likes working with people with specialist knowledge. It can operate in the online travel agency (OTA) market.
“I think you [Aito companies] should engage radically with Google, put Google on everything. Those who fight Google fail.”
Stevenson, who advises international banks on how to deal with changes in the web and has Google as one of his clients, suggested large online travel agents (OTA) may struggle to survive or will be acquired by the search engine.
“The change will take out OTAs; it will do that by buying the right businesses,” he said.
Stevenson named TripAdvisor.co.uk as a company that would survive, hinting that Google would be interested in buying the site “within two years”.
He added that Google had struggled to put in place a “payment gateway” but was well on the way to fixing this problem.
“That will be solved soon. The mobile gateway is slowly starting to happen. Google is ready in terms of having rich content. They are trying to build a crossover between TripAdvisor and social networking sites,” he said.