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.