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The latest Travel Weekly Business Breakfast gave senior industry delegates the chance to talk to CONTINUED FROM BACK COVER

“The scenarios they envisaged haven’t come true and I feel the industry is much more relaxed these days.” Google Flight Search was launched

following the $600 million acquisition of ITA Software – a deal that was approved only after an antitrust investigation in the US. Its development, along with Google’s

Hotel Finder shopping tool, prompted widespread fears that Google planned to launch its own travel business. However, Fauser said: “It’s about staying

relevant. The model we used for many years was working very well. If someone was searching, they were shown links. “Today, when people are searching, they

want answers. It’s not good enough for us to just show links. “If we continue like that, we’ll become

irrelevant. People will just not search, if they think they won’t get an answer. “If we become less relevant, then we become not only less relevant as a search engine, but less relevant for our advertisers. “So the product team has, for many years

now, been focused on providing, instead of links, more information, more insight and more facts, and helping people find what they want.

“It’s about being user focused – how we

can help them to get to that information more quickly – than it is driven by margin or profits.

“If someone is searching for a flight, what

is it they want to know? They want to know how long is it going to take and what the approximate price is. “Then they go deeper and we help to

drive that user demand to our partners. It’s much more qualified, so we see conversion rates for our partners go through the roof. “In the past, when someone was

searching for flights, they were buying traffic that was basically random. “Now, our advertisers are buying traffic

that is really targeted. That’s a much better lead. We are helping to qualify that lead.” Fauser claimed some partners in the hotel

sector had benefited from a 45% increase in conversion thanks to Hotel Finder.


70 • — 7 May 2015


Mobile is one of the key challenges for the travel industry, but also a huge opportunity. Dr Bernd Fauser, UK sales director for travel at Google, said 80% of global mobile traffic volume was ‘search’ and that the UK was an extremely mature mobile market. On April 21, Google rolled out its latest

significant algorithm update, so search results now favour mobile-optimised websites. However, Fauser admitted not even Google

was ahead of the curve on mobile, as consumer behaviour and expectations led the way. “Challenges are all about consumer

behaviour,” he said. “It is rapidly shifting and consumers are moving to new devices. They are becoming more savvy and more impatient. They don’t accept that technology is not slick. “I would love to be in a position to say we

are ahead of the game in mobile. Even our friends at Facebook say they are behind and didn’t see the move as quickly as it happened. “The UK is amazing on mobile. It has

super-high penetration. Even with the over-55s, there is 64% smartphone penetration. “It has quickly closed the gap on other

markets, such as Japan, which were once considered to be 10 years ahead of us.”


Travel has been slow to adapt to new media platforms such as YouTube because of an obsession with sales performance instead of branding. Nishma Robb, head of commercial

marketing at Google, said the world’s second-largest search engine provided access to a billion users worldwide, with 300 hours of content uploaded every minute. Over-35s account for 51% of its audience, with the fastest-growing sector the over-55s, which is growing at 20% a year. As well as collecting data on users, Robb said

brands should target people who are producing content – a new breed of YouTubers. “Brands don’t necessarily hire Hollywood stars any more,” she added. “YouTubers have a

Nishma Robb

Biren Kalaria, head of performance UK at Google, said firms should have a dual strategy on mobile with an app and mobile web. He said many apps were discarded, especially in travel, due to lower frequency of purchase, but they remained vital. “Understand where your customers are by making good use of data and retarget those people when you want them to open up the app again. “All that technology exists today and you should be at least testing some of it.”

far greater influence. People have so many questions around the travel process and YouTube is a great way of dealing with that. “Part of the reason travel has been slightly

slower to embrace YouTube is because they are trying to tag it to a return on investment. “It should be considered as strong brand

marketing. If you can build content, drive engagement and look after the influencers, you avoid that constant reacquisition cost.”

Biren Kalaria

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