What you need to know about Google’s ‘Things to do’ pilot program
Bookings through Google are undergoing some major changes, so if you are a tourism operator and want to make sure your business is not going to miss out, keep reading.
Google is phasing out its ‘Reserve with Google’ (RwG), which means saying goodbye to the “Buy Tickets” button. RwG enabled tours, activities, and attractions operators to capture bookings in their Google My Business listings without users having to navigate to other websites. Online travel agencies (OTAs) and partners processed the bookings for Google on the back end for a commission.
But don’t worry, Google will not leave you in the lurch, instead they are exploring new ways to help operators get more visibility through organic search. This has led to the latest pilot program from Google called ‘Things to do’.
How ‘Things to do’ Works
When someone searches for an attraction (or other things to do) in Google, Google Search results generates a list of booking options for those businesses, with the price and a link to book via each channel website. Previously, you could not list your website and were forced to give a commission to OTAs who would own the listings of your products.
Through the ‘Things to do’ program, Google allows operators to list their website alongside other reseller listings. It enables a direct referral straight to your website or booking page, avoiding commission and booking through a third party. Users will be able to clearly identify it is your site with an ‘Official Site’ badge added next to your link for authority.
You may ask why has Google chosen this direction?. Well, back in March Google issued the following statement on the switch stating, “This is part of our larger effort to ensure people have access to all offers available to them by providing free and easy ways for businesses to connect with people on Google. We made it free for partners to participate in Google Flights early last year, and in April we opened our Shopping tab to free listings for online retail. Over time, we will continue building this open platform, so that all partners will have even more opportunities to highlight their information and help people book a flight, find a place to stay, or explore a new destination.”
The links themselves will be free ticket booking (not paid ads) so Google will not be compensated for outbound clicks. This is similar to Google’s recent efforts to enable partners to participate in both their Hotels and Flights products for free.
What are the benefits of Google’s ‘Things to do’?
With 83% of mobile bookings happening after users researching on their smartphones, operators need to be where their audience is. If a customer is looking at you on Google, there’s already a strong intent to book. Typically, they would then click on the cheapest listing (or even just the first one) and then book via the OTAs. Having your website appear visibly on this initial list is a game-changer. It does not add any additional steps to the user journey – it just ensures you are a highly visible part of it.
The pilot program will allow this as well as full control of customer acquisition. It means you will own the ‘Official Site’ button, the customer, booking journey, and data from beginning to end. For tours, activities and attraction operators this is a huge win for regaining brand control and increasing direct consumer bookings.
You set the pricing, content, and distribution of your products and have visibility of end-to-end analytics to understand your customer journey more fully.
Most notably however, (especially given the year we’ve just had) there are fewer commissions, intermediaries and costs associated with bookings which means no more chipping away at your profit margins.
How can I be part of Google Things to do?
Via Livn’s integration with Google, they are the pipe that can get your inventory activated into Google environment. Livn powers the ‘Official Site’ button.
Livn is not a reservation system nor an OTA. They do not take a commission. Instead, Livn directly supports you and your business by bridging the gap between you and your customers. They are a connectivity hub connecting Google to the world’s leading tour and activity reservation systems so they do not have to create single integrations.
Livn will assist you in claiming and creating your official spot in the Google Things to do program regardless of whether you are using a reservation system or not.
Here is the user experience on Google Things to do: