What is Destinations on Google and how may it affect the hotel industry moving forward? In recent years, Google has made many successful forays into the travel industry, most popularly Google Flights and Google Hotels. But Destinations on Google may be the most significant development yet, especially in the area of hotel bookings. Destinations is intended to make the entire process of booking a vacation easier and more accessible for the consumer. The process includes flights, hotels, car rentals, and even activities.
What is Destinations on Google?
Google has currently rolled out this new feature in 200+ popular destination spots. Google’s Destinations tool looks for popular queries, such as “visiting the beach in Honolulu.” When queried on a mobile device, the Destinations helper shows up, with information about flights, hotels, activities—everything that a traveler would need to start planning the perfect vacation. The goal is to facilitate the discovery process, making it easier for travelers to find information they need on their destination while also encouraging them to buy. As a multi-step process, Google Destinations further walks the user through selecting their flight, booking a hotel, and finding any entertainment venues that they are interested in. These entertainment options can range from national parks to popular restaurants.
How do you access Destinations on Google?
A unique feature of Destinations is that it’s only triggered by certain searches and that it’s only available on mobile devices. Google has discovered that many individuals look up their travel plans specifically on their mobile phones and are more interested in the purchase of easy travel on these devices. In recent years, the number of individuals completing their itinerary transactions through mobile devices has gone up substantially, which makes it an area that is primed for growth and development.
It’s additionally possible that Google is testing destinations out on a limited market before bringing it to a broader scope, such as on a desktop computer. Regardless, Google Destinations currently only affects mobile consumers, and it cannot be directly accessed without a search query about an already supported destination. Google is hoping to continue to expand its destinations depending on the popularity of the program.
How Google Destinations affects travel planning
Google’s Destinations tool makes it easier than ever for customers to compare flights, hotels, and attractions, but this is actually a side effect of the new product. The major goal is to help the user learn more about what is available in an area, which can include a variety of entirely free sightseeing locations. Ideally, Destinations on Google will streamline travel planning for users, making users less reliant on third-party sites for travel research.
Users will be able to find cheaper destinations and will be able to examine travel spots that they may not have considered before, potentially attracting traffic to lesser known areas. Destinations on Google may also make it more attractive to book hotels via mobile devices, or even to start booking travel on-the-fly. Currently it’s estimated that 51.8% of travelers booking digitally are now using mobile devices, and this number is only expected to rise. At the moment, customers have become accustomed to creating their travel plans through multiple websites, in order to get the best deals. Google Destinations only serves to streamline this travel research process.
How Google Destinations will affect the hotel industry
For starters, Destinations’ integration of Google Flights and Hotel Search only serves to strengthen its existing advertising product for travel brands. Currently, OTAs spend billions on Google advertising every year, and hotels likely won’t see much change in the costs to bid for links from Hotel Search; if anything prices may become more competitive.
More importantly, Destinations on Google signals the ever-growing importance of mobile for the travel industry. The creation of this mobile-first product signals Google’s commitment to and investment in the mobile user experience for travel. As Google expects its mobile user base to grow, particularly in the travel segment, the release of Google Destinations is an important reminder to all hotels to ensure their entire mobile presence is up to standard with current best practices in the industry.
To take better advantage of the Google ecosystem for travel, hotels will need to maintain a website that is optimized for mobile, ideally responsively designed to accommodate various types of mobile devices and tablets. This includes large images, easy-to-read text that adjusts sizes based on the device size, and large buttons and scrolling features that are useful when you’re using your fingers to navigate. Google places a preference on mobile-friendly sites in their search algorithm, so having a good mobile user experience on your website is already an SEO boost.
Hotels will also need to pay special attention to their Google business listing, which will play an important part in Google Destinations. Google relies on official business listings to populate content in their Hotel Search product, so hotels should ensure that their photos look beautiful and bright (even while viewed as a small thumbnail on mobile). Encouraging guest reviews on Google also helps to strengthen your presence.
Lastly, keep an eye out on how Destinations on Google evolves. This is certainly not the last of Google’s travel innovations; with the recent announcement of a potential travel assistant app, it’s clear Google wants travelers to depend on them for nearly every aspect of travel.