Agoda re-introduced into Google vacation rental product lineup

Worldwide: Google’s vacation rental product now includes listings from Booking Holdings brand Agoda, while Airbnb is, intriguingly, absent from the search engine’s feature lineup.

As the tech company continues the strengthening of its vacation rental offering with Google Vacation Rentals [or Holiday Rentals outside of the USA], which includes listings and reviews for property management companies and online travel agencies [OTAs], it has nevertheless faced a number of obstacles as brands have u-turned on their involvement in the program.

Since unveiling the first iteration of its vacation rental product early last year, Agoda has featured as a debut participant before dropping out in October, by which time Airbnb had taken its place. Now, though, it appears there has been another role reversal and Airbnb is conspicuous in its absence, with at least a dozen vacation rental companies featuring in Google Vacation Rentals instead.

Google’s intentions to diversify into and establish a firm presence in travel is becoming ever more clear, given it now has its own standalone category dedicated to the vacation rental sector in its travel category, alongside its hotels, flights, tours and activities, destination content, reviews and itinerary management segments.

The push for visibility in the vacation rental space is intended to help Google capitalise on travel reservations from the traditional OTAs as well as solidify its competitive footprint to potentially become a one-stop shop for the full range of traveller’s every needs.

Airbnb’s absence from Google’s lineup may yet be temporary or permanent, but it could equally be attributed to its recent filing to go public, potentially via an initial public offering [IPO]. The platform will be keen to persuade investors that it does not need to rely on advertising with a potential competitor in Google to attract bookings, in order to attract a higher valuation as the industry seeks to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Google’s vacation rental product remains a work in progress, more changes are expected as it evolves over time.

The likes of Booking Holdings and Expedia Group have a smaller share of the vacation rental market than Airbnb. However, in the former’s case, its Agoda brand’s reintroduction into Google’s product coincides with the appointment of a new chief marketing officer, Arjan Dijk, who has already underlined the importance of advertising across any platform or channel possible to gain the best return on investment and maximise its revenues.

Other companies already listing their rates and content in Google Vacation Rentals include Vrbo, TripAdvisor, Vacasa, Rentals United, TurnKey Vacation Rentals, RedAwning, Casamundo and HolidayLettings.

Earlier this month, Google Travel unveiled a number of new tools it was adding to its platform, including a ‘travel trendiness’ feature, in order to restore confidence in travel, ascertain the availability of vacation rentals and hotels in a chosen region, and mark out which properties have free cancellation policies due to the pandemic.