In November of 2010, Google integrated a hotel booking feature into the Place Page of most hotels. This is a feature that Google started testing in March of 2010. The feature is currently only available to a limited number of partners but Google noted today (after several months of inquiries) in the Help Forums that it will, one day, be available to all:
Thanks for your questions everyone. What you’re seeing is a new feature that shows price and availability for hotels. We’re currently working with a number of partners to allow users to click through and begin the booking process. In addition, we’re working to expand these partnerships and exploring ways to allow individual hoteliers to easily share updated pricing / availability. In the interim, you can already add direct booking links in Google Places (see help article ). Thanks for your excitement about participating; we’re looking forward to opening this up to more partners.
From a small hotel’s point of view, this can happen none to soon. Often times the likes of Orbitz or Expedia can take 25% of their booking fees on a regular basis and upwards of 50% in a clearance situation. While the large hotel booking sites do not like the idea of “disintermediation”, the hotel chains and small hotels most definitely would. Upon reflection, Google could step into this market, take 10% and be perceived as a hero.
At some point we can assume that Google is planning on making the Places Page a transactional environment for many industries. This is likely but the initial foray.