Google has created what it is calling a “Travel Industry Council” in a bid to improve relations with brands around the sector.
The group is known to have met over the course of two days earlier this month in San Francisco, US.
Members include senior representatives from hotel chains (Marriott and Hilton), online travel agencies and other intermediaries (Expedia, Airbnb, Rome2Rio and TripAdvisor), tourism boards (VisitFlorida), industry groups (GBTA), venture capital groups (Thayer Ventures), tech providers (Concur and TravelClick) and consultants (McKinsey).
No airlines are believed to have attended the meeting, although at least one US carrier was expected to be at the meeting.
The meeting is understood to have been convened under the strict so-called Chatham House Rule, where the conversation is off-the-record and any material that was discussed can be acted on privately but not attributed to any other participant.
Jon Alferness and Oliver Heckmann, both vice presidents for Google within its shopping and travel division, are behind the initiative.
Whilst Google is well-known for hosting get-togethers for its customers, often at its Mountain View headquarters in Silicon Valley, in recent years, the company’s position and role in the travel industry have changed dramatically.
The company is no longer just a marketing platform so that travel brands can vie with one another for keyword advertising in search (and making enormous sums of money in the process), Google now has metasearch products of its own for travellers looking for flights and hotels, so it now also competes with the very companies it counts as customers.
This has ignited a cross section of views within the industry, ranging from mild irritation to outright anger, as many often see Google as getting away with, in one source’s words, “biting the hand that feeds it”.