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Google’s phasing out of its ‘Reserve with Google’ function offers huge potential for tourism
Wrapping up its 'Reserve with Google' (RwG) function, search engine giant Google is replacing it with a new pilot program called 'Things to Do', which offers huge potential for visitor attractions and tourism operators - aided by connectivity partner Livn.
Google’s phasing out of the RwG function will see the end of the ‘Buy Tickets’ that 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.
With the 'Things to Do' pilot program, operators can now list their own website’s product booking pages alongside the other listings to get direct bookings straight from Google search results for free, avoid intermediates/commission and regain control over distribution, content, and the customer journey.
Google announced its new approach to the sector back in March 2021 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'll 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."
From sports stadiums and themed entertainment tickets to historical activities and nature and wildlife tours, 'Things to Do' will allow users to easily compare options for visiting their favourite attractions and will be able to click through to the operator's website to complete the transaction. It means more booking options to customers and puts control back in the hands of small, medium, and large tour operators.
Livn - a 'Things to Do' partner
Travel connectivity hub Livn has been confirmed as the latest partner to facilitate the move.
Livn's role is to claim, create and power the 'Official Site' button that takes potential customers directly to the operator's website from Google Search results. This provides a level playing field between operators and large OTAs, minimises intermediaries, reduces cost of sale, and increases the operators’ bottom line.
Instrumental in making the partnership happen, Livn founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Steve Martinez explained "it's exciting to see the result of years of engagement with a Livn and Google partnership that can give tours, activities and attractions operators better brand control over distribution as well as a much-needed boost given the events over the last 18 months".
As Livn is not a reservation system or OTA they take no commission, but instead act as a connection between the operator and consumer. Operators retain ownership of the official site tickets button, the customer, and end-to-end analytics to better manage the entire customer booking journey and experience.
The result for operators? Lower costs, increased direct bookings, and full ownership of customer acquisition. Additionally, with 83% of mobile bookings being completed after a smartphone search, 'Things to Do' allows operators to be where their audience is.
Livn Chief Executive, Mark Rizzuto expressed the partnership as a highlight for 2021, noting "we are thrilled that Livn can help play a part in the revival of travel and help attraction and tour operators be ready for the bounce back and resurgence of digital bookings."
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, attractions and operators could not list their websites and were forced to give a commission to OTAs who would own the product listings.
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.
Google’s changes result from an announcement in March that advised “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 advertisements) 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, attractions and operators need to be where their audience is. If a customer is looking at a product or service 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 a specific website appear visibly on this initial list has huge potential. 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 attractions and operators 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.
It also enables attractions and operators to set the pricing, content, and distribution of their products and have visibility of end-to-end analytics to understand your customer journey more fully.
Most of all, given the challenges that the industry has faced over the past 18 month, there are fewer commissions, intermediaries and costs associated with bookings which means no more chipping away at your profit margins.
Becoming part of Google Things to do?
Via Livn’s integration with Google, they are the pipe that can get inventory activated into the 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 businesses by bridging the gap between the business and its 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.
Click here for more information.
3rd October 2021 - Tourism group’s rebranding part of a pledge to do ‘business for good’
30th September 2021 - Merlin Entertainments prepares to reopen NSW attractions
29th September 2021 - Merlin Entertainments ‘confident’ about future despite US$878 million loss in 2020
22nd September 2021 - Australian Regional Tourism adds voice to fears over skills and workforce shortages
20th September 2021 - CrocArena attraction opens at Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas
20th September 2021 - Report shows challenges facing nature-based tourism
22nd August 2021 - What will be the top five tourist attractions of 2021?
11th August 2021 - TryBooking update their user access management feature
20th April 2021 - Booking.com research reveals Australian traveller optimism
22nd February 2021 - Online ticketing scams return to impact tourist attractions
2nd February 2021 - Tasmanian Government helps tourism attractions with insurance contributions
26th August 2020 - ROLLER shares attractions industry’s approach to adapting to COVID-19 rules
21st December 2018 - Ticketek introduces Google Pay Payments API
6th December 2017 - Optimism key in tourism booking behaviour
23rd November 2017 - Google updates AdWords policy to restrict online ticket scalpers
3rd April 2017 - Google launches new booking service for fitness classes
19th July 2016 - RedBalloon launches real-time bookings with Livn GDS
28th December 2014 - Online bookings challenge regional visitor information centres
11th April 2012 - Google opens global art galleries to millions
29th December 2011 - Google Australia rates Hamilton Island as ‘most popular travel destination’
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