Google tests search for package travel in Europe

Google is experimenting with metasearch for packaged trips – one of the mainstays of the European travel sector.

The search giant insists that it is purely in “test” phase with the service, limiting it to users based in the UK and Germany before what is expected to be a roll-out to other regions in the coming months.

The functionality will be available through Destination pages, alongside flights and hotels.

Metasearch for package trips is not new, with Kayak introducing it in Europe four years ago and those with longer memories recalling former-market leader in the UK, TravelSupermarket, having a channel from as early as the mid-2000s.

Where Google claims to be leading the way is with results being combined on-the-fly, with air fares and hotel rates pulled together in the classic “dynamic packaging” process that was first introduced to online travel agencies in the early-2000s.

TravelSupermarket was said to be working on similar functionality a few years back.

Previously, an OTA would become the merchant of record for a dynamically packaged trip (including, in Europe, the all-important and often complicated world of consumer protection marks, such as ATOL in the UK).

Google will not share any information about the mechanics – technical or logistical – behind the scenes.

Both Peakwork and Distribute Travel are working with Google during the test phase, but are unable to or will not comment in detail about how the project and technology are structured.

Oliver Heckmann, vice president of engineering at Google, said at a Skift event earlier this month:

“We are basically going further than dynamic packaging and taking the information we have in our flight cache and our hotel cache and allowing the user to create ultimate combinations.

“It’s a differentiated experience. It is a search tool that lets you buy the individual components separately or together.”

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