Everything Your Hotel Should Know About the Google Maps Update
A few months ago, Google announced big changes to its Google Maps Platform. These changes included a new pay-as-you-go pricing structure that requires websites and applications that exceed a certain number of “calls” within the Google Maps API to use paid plans.
Historically, the Maps API has been a free-to-use platform, enabling many businesses around the world to embed a Google Map within their website. This feature would often contain custom information, such as a marker pin that highlighted a business’s exact location.
Naturally, the price hike hasn’t proved popular. While some businesses have given in and paid the fees that Google charges, others have scrambled to find a suitable alternative.
Hotels have obviously been greatly affected by Google’s policy change. Hotels commonly use Google Maps to show potential guests nearby attractions, restaurants, and points of interest that are worth visiting during their visit.
In addition, hotels use the Google API to show their own locations without having all other nearby hotels also marked within the map.
The result of inaction during the Google Maps update
If you didn’t pay attention to any of the warning notifications that Google Maps sent out, you might have noticed that your custom maps stopped working a couple of weeks ago and was replaced by this Google Maps watermark:
Suffice to say, this creates a pretty bad user experience for visitors that land on your website. To prevent frustrating your website visitors (and potentially losing their booking), there are only really two options available.
You can either pay Google the upgrade fee, which is really going to be dependent on your usage (i.e. your website traffic levels). Or you can find a cheaper alternative.
The graphic above shows a rise in people around the world searching on the term ‘Google Maps API billing’. Note that there’s a significant spike around June following the warning that Google sent out around May.
Free alternatives to Google Maps
Fortunately, there are a few free alternatives to the Google Maps API that provide almost the same functionality as Google’s version. Below, we’ve listed three alternatives. Your choice from these options will likely depend on the level of bandwidth your hotel website uses, and the type of functionality that you’re looking for.
Outside of Google, OpenStreetMap (OSM) has to be one of the biggest community-driven alternatives. Inspired by the success of Wikipedia, this non-profit open source project offers editable maps of the world. This service is completely free to use, as long as you credit OSM when used.