Inside Google’s Feud with the Battered Online Travel Industry – CNBC

Google site through a magnifying glass
Inside Google’s Feud with the Battered Online Travel Industry – CNBC

  • Google has been locked in a debate for weeks with the likes of GetYourGuide, Trivago and HomeToGo over outstanding ad payments. 
  • The search giant is said to have forced the online travel companies to pay their bills in June and July even though their own revenues had been cut significantly by lockdowns around the world.  
  • Axel Hefer, chief executive at Trivago, told CNBC that Trivago has “missed a collaborative spirit from Google.”

Behind closed doors, Google is engaged in a bitter standoff with the online travel industry. The issue is global but German travel companies have been particularly outspoken.

Activity booking platform GetYourGuide, hotel finder Trivago, and Airbnb rival HomeToGo have been feuding with the search giant about their unpaid advertising bills since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Online travel companies were particularly exposed to the devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak as lockdowns brought worldwide mobility to a near standstill. New bookings dried up and the sites had to refund tens of millions of dollars to customers that were unable to travel.

In a joint letter, a group of German travel start-ups asked Google, which has helped the businesses thrive over the years by promoting their websites in its search results in exchange for a fee, to share the burden.

The letter didn’t work as the companies hoped it would. CNBC has been able to confirm through multiple sources and materials that Google demanded advertising bills were paid in full.

“Google refused to do anything and instead asked us to pay immediately in the midst of the pandemic,” said GetYourGuide Chief Executive Johannes Reck, who persuaded SoftBank to invest $500 million in his Berlin-based company last year.

Reck told CNBC that Google’s behavior during the coronavirus “is the match that has ignited a much greater fire.”

Google played down the allegations and said it is working with its travel partners to help protect their businesses.

“We’ve taken a number of measures including helping them surface their cancellation policies in our travel search products,” a spokesperson for the company said.

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