Choice Hotels Puts Its Eggs in the Google Hotels Basket
When it comes to the hotel industry, there are a few primary online resources where hotel chains can invest money to get booking referrals: TripAdvisor, Kayak, Trivago and Google Hotels. Hotels pay each of these channels fees for hotel reservations that started from referrals from each channel.
To hotels, giving up a little revenue is worth it because they fill more rooms with less effort. Because these are not blatant advertising sources, travelers trust the sites, using them to check multiple options, comparing reviews, locations and prices. And, they send hotel chains massive referrals, and so the opportunity is clear.
Among the major hotel chain sites hilton.com, marriott.com and ihg.com, Tripadvisor is the biggest source of referral traffic.
But for choicehotels.com, which includes brands like Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, and EconoLodge (among others), Google Hotels has been a tremendous boon for bookings, especially since they tend to rank lower and garner some negative online reviews on TripAdvisor.
Is Google Hotels Changing its Formula?
Google Hotels, which hasn’t had the same degree of success of its sibling, Google Flights, used to send 65 to 70% of its referral traffic to online travel agents like Expedia and Priceline, but starting in October 2017, that number has dropped to about 50%, and the rest is going directly to hotel websites like Choice.
The spike in traffic that Google Hotels started sending Choice last fall has continued since. It’s possible that Google is seeing an opportunity to work with hotel brands that aren’t getting the play they want on OTAs and travel referral sites like TripAdvisor, and possibly a bigger piece of the pie for referrals.
What’s In It for Choice Hotels?
The stakes are high for Choice. They have spent tens of millions on a new reservation system for their 6,500 properties, launched this January. That gives the chain the tools it needs to generate its own bookings and not rely on online travel agencies.
Interestingly, referrals to Choice declined from 2016–18 on Kayak and Trivago. On TripAdvisor,, traffic referrals remain flat.
Because Google Hotels tends to have fewer user-generated reviews than, say, TripAdvisor, it may be helping boost Choice’s bookings. It may be less about customer experience and more about convenience and location that has Choice thriving on Google Hotels.
So is this a smart move for Choice Hotels? Is putting more focus on getting referrals through Google Hotels a savvy decision for the long-term, or is this just temporary success?