In the UK and Germany, users of Google’s destination product will see the first experimental sales of flight and hotel packages.

Speaking Tuesday at the first Skift Forum Europe, Oliver Heckmann, a Google vice president of engineering who heads the search engine’s travel product, said the product is still in testing. Heckmann stresses that it’s not just about selling vacation packages.

“It’s a differentiated experience,” said Heckmann. “It is a search tool that lets you buy the individual components separately or together.” Consumers are not only shown bundled options. But Google says it is the first time a major metasearch platform has attempted “dynamic packaging.” Rather than display packages put together by operators and wholesalers, it displays air and hotel combinations pulled together in an automated process. Vendors like Lufthansa Vacations agree to sell the combined products within a restricted database of hotel and flight availability.

Distribute Travel, a travel technology vendor in the UK, and Peakwork, a travel technology vendor in Germany, are two of the companies helping on the back-end in this experiment, Skift has learned. The goal is to allow users to decide whether booking a flight and a place to stay separately or together makes “the optimal choice.” In the European market, packages remain a mainstay of travel selling. In the UK, about half of the leisure trips are sold as packages, on average. So Google is venturing into a potentially lucrative new territory by tapping this dynamic packaging market.

Heckmann told Skift executive editor Dennis Schaal, during an onstage interview today in London, that the “very large scale experiment” adds packages to the options offered in the logistics module of its Destination pages. In this way, Google is targeting the so-called “upper funnel” of the transaction process, allowing users to get a sense of where they might travel based on their budget. Package rates are being pulled from some major providers, such as Lufthansa Holidays and Air Berlin Holidays. Google is in discussions with TUI as well.

“We are basically going further than dynamic packaging and taking the information we have in our flight cache and our hotel cache and allowing the user to create ultimate combinations,” said Heckmann. Given that it is an experiment, only some Google users are seeing the functionality in their results. In a handful of tests in the local markets, Skift didn’t see the results on either mobile or desktop. Google’s move follows its product launch in Europe of adding relevant intercity rail results between European destinations. It is the first of the major travel metasearch platforms to integrate rail options into search listings in Europe. That matters because Europe’s geographic density and a heavy investment in its passenger rail infrastructure makes such information heavily relevant to consumers, who spent more than $2 billion on intercity rail tickets last year.

This packages experiment is the first time Google has released a product in Europe ahead of other markets.

Source: Skift, April 2017