Google expands vacation rental search as competition heats up

Users will now be able to book cabins, apartments and other types of lodging through third parties like Expedia

Google is currently expanding its travel booking service to include vacation rentals from a wide variety of third-party companies.

The new feature will allow Google users to book vacation lodging via companies including HomeAway,Hotels.com, Expedia, Rentals United, TripAdvisor, VRBO and more, the company announced last week. The feature is already available on mobile devices and should roll out for desktop users in the next month.

Credit: Google

Users can turn the feature on by applying a “vacation rentals” filter to their searches and, according to Google, should let people book everything from a “cabin in Lake Tahoe” to “a beach house in Sydney.”

“You can narrow your search with price and amenity filters, plus browse photos, read reviews and see rates and availability of the vacation rental property,” Google said in a statement. “When you’re ready to book, click ‘Book’ to complete your transaction on the travel partner’s page.”

Late last year, Google redesigned its hotel “search experience” to streamline the booking process and put more tools in one place. The company began including non-hotel vacation rentals in its search results at that time, but the announcement last week marks an expansion of “the hotel search experience to include a wider assortment of vacation rental properties worldwide,” according to the statement.

Google declined to say specifically what last week’s new additions were, but told Inman in an email that “we are just getting started with expanding our vacation rental inventory, and you will continue to see us add new partners to the program as we move forward.”

“Our focus is on providing travelers with extensive accommodation options in a fast, effortless process to meet their needs,” Google spokesperson Jennifer Rodstrom said in the email.

Asked about paid partnerships with lodging companies, Rodstrom also said that the results are currently surfacing “organically” and “we have no plans to add promoted spots at this time.”

Google conspicuously did not mention Airbnb in its new announcement last week, and travel news website Skift noted that the company’s listings do not appear to show up in any search results. Skift speculated that Airbnb was omitted because, among other reasons, some of its offerings aren’t aligned with Google’s strategy of focusing on entire properties (a whole cabin, say, or an entire condo, rather than just a bedroom in someone’s otherwise occupied home).

Google did not answer Inman’s inquiry about Airbnb’s omission, with Rodstrom saying instead that “we can’t comment on specific players or partners.”

But either way, Google’s expanding vacation rental services come as competition for travelers’ dollars heats up and more people shun conventional hotels. Perhaps most notably, home-sharing heavyweight Airbnb is expected to go public sometime in the near future, potentially intensifying its clout in the sector. Other companies, such as Vacasa, have also been diversifying their offerings and expanding their reach.

Email Jim Dalrymple II