Author Archives: Pierric Duthoit

Celebrating World Tourism Day and a bright travel future

Over the summer, I finally reunited with my family in France after almost two years. I live in another country, and traveling to see them has always been fairly easy. But when borders closed during the pandemic, visiting my family was no longer possible. In that moment, I realized just how essential traveling is — not only to my own life, but to the entire human experience. Travel supports everything from business opportunities to stronger bonds in families that live apart. Not being able to see my children made being far from them more unbearable — and it helped me appreciate the travel industry more than ever before. 

On September 27, we celebrate World Tourism Day, and how travel helps us recharge and build meaningful connections with people around the world. And after a year of mostly social isolation, people are especially eager to take a trip. As research from Google and Kantar shows, a leading motivator for booking travel this year is visiting friends and family. Other major reasons include getting away and "treating oneself," and disconnecting from screens and the "everyday, at-home" life. 

As vaccination campaigns have advanced and countries are reopening, we’ve seen increased optimism and readiness to make up for lost time and travel. Since the beginning of the year, the top-searched European tourist destinations on Google Maps are the Eiffel Tour (France), Sagrada Família (Spain), Louvre Museum (France), Europa-Park (Germany) and Colosseum (Italy).

A list of top searched destinations on Google Maps in Europe and blue illustrations of each

While the pandemic has hit the travel industry particularly hard, there are hopeful signs that travel businesses are slowly but surely getting back on their feet. According to new research from ForwardKeys, international flights to European destinations in July and August reached 39.9% of pre-pandemic levels — a 13.3% increase from last year. 

This is good news for the travel sector, which had to adapt to ever-changing COVID restrictions and border closings in the last year. For many travel businesses, technology and data insights have become lifelines to understand the shifts in travel demand and better connect with potential visitors online. Throughout the pandemic, Grow with Google has continued to provide digital skills trainings for small and medium travel businesses in the region so they can use online tools to attract new guests and grow their business.

Les Courtines, a charming gîte (a French cottage) with breathtaking views of the Larzac Mountains in France, participated in one of these digital skills programs. Marc and Corinne Levitte opened the cottage after their retirement in 2018 as a serene getaway for visitors eager to spend time in nature and away from the bustle of city life. Even though Marc didn't have much experience with technology, our French Grow with Google program — Google Ateliers Numériques — helped him optimize their Google My Business listing to make their website more visible. The effort paid off, and the cottage was completely booked for the summer season. 

Earlier this year, we launched free hotel booking links to give hotels and travel companies a free way to reach potential customers. So far, these free hotel booking links have led to increased engagement across both small and large travel partners. For example, hotels working with the Greek booking engine WebHotelier saw more than $4.7M in additional revenue from free booking links this summer. Travel Insights with Googleis a zero-cost website for tourist destinations that features Destination Insights,real-time local data on how tourism demand is changing. Another tool, Hotel Insights, shows where interest for hotels and the region is highest. These resources have been useful for tourist organizations around the region.

Image showing quote from Dimitris Fragakis, Secretary General of Greek National Tourism Organization

As more people want to travel sustainably and look for eco-friendly services, we also recently announced that we’re making it easier to find planet-friendly options when traveling. Now, you can find information about a hotel's sustainability measures when you use our hotel search tool on Eco-hotels like Scandic hotels Hamburg in Germany can now share more about their sustainable practices. 

On this World Tourism Day, we remain optimistic that the travel and tourism industry will re-emerge stronger and more sustainable. And if you’re inspired to plan your next trip, check out Italy's capital of culture, Dubai's heritage and the explorer’s paradise of South Africa on Google Arts & Culture.

World Tourism Day: How digital skills can support recovery

After months of isolation while living in quarantine, travel is the leisure activity that I miss the most. And I’m not alone. Our research, conducted with the Boston Consulting Group, shows that 31 percent of people hope to plan leisure travel once they feel safe enough to do so. 

World Tourism day is coming up on September 27, and Search trends show that people have the travel bug: In June, the top three travel-related Search queries were: “When can we travel again?” “When will international travel resume?” and “When will it be safe to travel again?” In August, the top queries were related to where and when people can travel “right now.” In fact, 45 percent of the top 100 questions related to travel focused on the impact of COVID-19 and  the desire to travel as safely and as soon as possible.

Graph showing travel survey results

Where do travelers want to go right now? Heading to the beach and visiting rural areas or small towns are top of the list, particularly for Italians and the Dutch.

Adapting to the new normal of travel

The tourism industry relies on historical data to predict future demand. But in the current highly-volatile environment, this is no longer adequate. That's why we share high-level data and insights about fast-rising travel categories in Google Search like domestic vacations (with search terms like “country holiday” or “car hire near me”); where in the world searches are growing; and the queries associated with them. 

Our data and analyses, available on our Think with Google site, can help tourism businesses identify new trends in consumer preferences. For example, as people increasingly search for local and outdoor tourism, businesses can react to these changing needs by doing marketing campaigns that highlight nature destinations, and they can prepare for an uptick in last-minute bookings.

Partnering with tourism ministries, travel experts and the travel business sector 

We're partnering with government ministries, businesses and experts throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa to foster digital skills in the travel sector. For example, we’ve worked with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to train tourism officials and businesses on a range of digital tools to engage travellers at home, and encourage future travel when possible. And our first UN & Google Tourism Acceleration Program will take place virtually this Wednesday, September 23, designed for UN member states' tourism ministers, top travel associations, tourism boards and destination marketing organizations. It will focus on travel and tourism insights from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria so participants can better understand shifts in behavior and adapt their products and offerings to meet new demands.

To further support  new solutions in the sector, Google for Startups Spain is launching a Growth Academy for TravelTech startups. The eleven selected businesses will partner with experts from Google to develop tailored strategies for acquiring new customers and partnerships to grow their businesses.

We also partnered with Atout France, the France tourism development agency, to share demand and consumer trends with their members, and we co-conducted digital marketing webinars for more than 600 French travel businesses and organizations to support their recovery efforts.

And in Greece, we launched #greecefromhome, an at-home continuation of Grow Greek Tourism Online, a digital skills program in partnership with the Greek Ministry of Tourism. #greecefromhome gave virtual tours of Greece and provided free digital skills training for over 6,000 Greek tourism businesses during the lockdown. This builds on our efforts to support the tourism sector across the region, helping them grow with digital tools, get access to training and digitize their heritage

While this World Tourism Day marks a uniquely challenging period for tourism, it’s also an opportunity to prepare and find new ways to engage with would-be travellers. We remain optimistic about the travel industry’s future, and about the role that our tools can play to help it recover.