Matt Barker, Horizon Guides
"One of the big consequences of cementing Google at the top of the funnel is that it creates a structural bias for a very specific type of marketing."
Quote from Matt Barker, founder of Horizon Guides, in an article on PhocusWire this week about loosening Google's grip on travel search after the coronavirus.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered on our site that week.
It's a fairly Utopian vision: Google decides to work with centralized keyword buying platforms in tourism and, in turn, small businesses get a chance to compete against the big players.
"This sort of coordination would level the playing field for smaller, local operators, and help redirect more value back to the grassroots of the industry," writes Matt Barker.
In part, his point is that because only the wealthy brands can compete at the top of the funnel, they pretty much just throw content and product at what they think gets the best return on their investment - rather than considering everything else, often at the expense of what is best for the industry as a whole.
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At a more practical level, perhaps the industry, destination marketing organizations and others could coordinate ad buying for their local operators to help reduce costs and facilitate consumer demand.
When the coronavirus crisis is over (good luck with forecasting that), optimists want the industry to be different - whether it's the relationship between suppliers and intermediaries or how destinations can rethink how they manage visitor numbers.
Some of these ideas are possible, to varying degrees.
But expecting Google to massively rethink how it takes money from the industry - perhaps even earning less in the process - seems a little far-fetched, some might argue, despite a huge desire in large swathes of the industry for Google to have its wings clipped.
Putting aside all the discussions that have taken place over the last decade about Google's relationship with the industry (especially in recent years), how do we really expect the marketing tap to be turned on again in, say, a few months?
Google knows that the moment its biggest spenders are back in the groove (the OTAs, namely), it will want to be as accommodating as it possibly can be to make sure they are firing on all cylinders from a marketing perspective.
It takes a very upbeat type of industry figure to think that Google will be remotely interested in helping out those that do not have the ability to flood its coffers with marketing dollars quickly.
The ecosystem works the way it does because it is a not only a finely tuned but finely balanced machine. It doesn't feel, even when a post-coronavirus era arrives, like that machine is ready to be traded in for a younger model.
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