On Monday, Google acquired travel guidebook publisher Frommer’s from John Wiley & Sons. Frommer’s is an established publisher of guidebooks and hosts a website that books travel, offers trip ideas, information and mobile apps.
Currently, 57% of travelers start their destination search process on a search engine like Google, but then turn to sites like TripAdvisor and travel agencies for planning and shopping, according to travel research firm PhoCusWright.
Google will likely integrate Frommer’s hotel reviews and destinations with the restaurant reviews it acquired via Zagat into its search and Map products, along with Google+ Local. Soon, people who search for travel ideas via Google will likely be able to read Frommer’s reviews directly within their search, without even clicking on other review sites such as TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, or Fodor.
The move is evidence of the tech giant’s interest in gaining a stake in the travel industry. Google also owns Google Flights and Hotel Finder, two tools that customers can use to look up their flights and itineraries via Gmail, referring to other booking engines. These tools bring Google in competition with travel search companies Kayak and Bing Travel. Kayak itself already provides Frommer’s content on its booking engine site.
Further, acquisition of Frommer’s moves Google deep into the content industry. This move is in line with Google’s Knowledge Graph and Google+ Local projects. But I feel Google may come under fire for monopoly as a content creator. Already, Consumer Watchdog and FairSearch.org are calling on government regulators to block Google’s purchase of Frommer’s. As a search engine, Google is supposed to direct eyes to the “most relevant” search results. As the company buys more and more content, the lines are blurring between Google’s own content and the “best” search results for its users, edging out any competition.
It is also important to note that with Frommer’s reviews, Google seems to be switching focus on trusted, curated content rather than user generation. While it is true that Frommer’s is a well-known brand of over 50 years of travel guidebooks, many of the sites travelers use now provide user-generated reviews (such as TripAdvisor or Yelp). Only time will tell if Google plans to integrate Frommer’s content along with Google+ Local reviews in a platform like TripAdvisor.