When the world searches for information, the vast majority of people turn to Google for assistance. Finding travel information and booking a flight or a hotel, however, is a different kind of task. Particular search engines and booking services that are specialized in travel provide detailed information on destinations. If the best way to search for travel information is not Google, what is?
The problem with using Google for travel search
Google favors its own travel related businesses in search results instead of providing the best available information to travelers. Travel industry consultancy Skift reports how a search for hotels shows results only from Google Hotels product and paid ads. The real search results are listed pages after these, but as we know, people rarely bother viewing past the first and second search result pages. Google Flights, Google Maps, and Google Trips are company’s other travel-related products.
A number of online services focus solely on travel, providing information on hotels, flights, car rental, and increasingly, private apartments that can be rented at destinations. Expedia, Kayak, Skyscanner, and many others are in the business of earning commissions from flights and hotels booked via their services. Slant ranks these travel booking/search services according to user feedback and other factors. Hipmunk was ranked at the top (the ranking is dynamic and may change any time).
Can we trust the specialized travel search/booking services to give us the correct information?
Mostly, yes, we can trust them, but especially Booking.com and Airbnb have questionable practices in the booking process and have also been discovered to provide incorrect information to travelers. They are being investigated for their practices in the UK.
Also, the best prices, or book now for the lowest price the booking services advertise are not always accurate. It is a good idea to compare prices at competing services.
Especially, experienced travelers like to book directly the hotel they want and the flight they want. Nothing is stopping everyone doing the same. In fact, The New York Times tested a number of travel search/booking services, and discovered that you should not trust in one booking site alone, and in many cases it made sense to book directly with an airline or a hotel.
In Europe, multiple low-cost airlines compete from passengers who like to fly to popular city and beach destinations within Europe. Tourists are used to booking directly with these airlines, and consider it normal practice.
Is a general purpose or travel specific search engine the best for finding reliable travel information?
It depends on what you are looking for. Let’s break it down to real life situations.
- If you are planning a trip to a destination that you are unfamiliar with, start with a travel guidebook
- You save time because you don’t have to search for reliable information, but you can trust the information included in the book. Travel guides also give both an overview and details about a destination. Usually, you can get tips for a location where to look for a place to stay.
- If you are only trying to find the best price, using travel-specific services, like Momondo or Kiwi points you to the right direction. As our own experiences and The New York Times test indicated, this requires time and effort because the results vary. It is worth checking the short list candidates (airlines, hotels, trains, etc) directly as well.
- If you are familiar with a destination, you can book directly. You probably know where you want to stay and how to get there.
In many cases, the best search results for travel are achieved with a combination of travel-specific services and direct booking.