It all starts with a dream and a digital search: browsing websites, checking social media videos, or asking artificial intelligence for recommendations.

NB: This is an article from Cloudbeds, one of our Expert Partners

Travel search is changing, and independent properties must reanalyze the discovery stage of the guest journey to drive more bookings. How do travelers today look for inspiration and search for accommodation?

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This article explores how Google’s new search experience, short-form videos, and conversational AI will impact travel search and provides tips on how independent lodging properties could benefit from these changes.

Google’s new era of search with generative AI

Google remains the world’s dominant search engine, with a market share of overall searches of 90%, as of June 2023. With many trips beginning on Google, accommodation providers must stay alert to the latest updates, including Google’s new search tools and SGE.

In April, Google announced a new way for travelers to browse and discover hotels on mobile. Now, users can explore each property in a swipeable story format.

However, the highly anticipated disruption is the new generative AI experience in search (SGE), announced in May and currently in BETA. SGE aims to enhance the search process by incorporating artificial intelligence and conversational functionality into Google’s search results.

Early data shows that in the new search experience, the Hotel Pack will provide travelers with a broader range of information, including:

  • A short snippet of text briefly describing the property
  • Image link cards from various OTAs and the hotel’s website
  • The hotel’s Google Business Profile
  • The possibility to ask follow-up questions

How can lodging businesses prepare?

This new search experience is still in the experimentation phase in the U.S., and it’s hard to predict how it will affect hotel marketing strategies. However, these two updates indicate what you should focus on to generate more search bookings.

Your direct bookings website and Google profile should always be up to date, with the latest information and high-quality photos. Investing in videos is also a safe bet, especially with the newly launched story feature on mobile.

Lastly, remember to cover the basics and optimize your website for easy booking, especially on mobile devices.

Short-form videos

Short-form videos are becoming increasingly important as a research tool among travelers. What may have started on TikTok has now expanded to other platforms, such as Google, YouTube, and Instagram.

This change in popularity might be easy to explain. Short-form videos provide entertainment, education, and connection, often in less than a minute. Users also like them because they are personal and provide easily digestible information.

How can lodging businesses prepare?

Over the past year, videos have become a search engine result for almost everything and a key ingredient in travel and booking searches. That is why overlooking short-form videos could mean disregarding potential revenue.

The best part is that producing short-form videos doesn’t require significant investment. You can get creative with visual storytelling using just your smartphone. Many free apps can help you add captions and edit your videos to boost their engagement rate. The most important aspect is for your video to be authentic and on-brand.

Remember to cover the basics: where possible, include links to your website or booking engine from your videos and social media bios. By doing this, you streamline the traveler’s journey and make it easy for them to book with you.

Conversational AI

According to a Matador Network, about 36% of travelers would likely use AI to research or plan travel within the next 12 months. Conversational AI is still in its early stages, with travelers already testing it, especially in destination searches.

For technology providers, this technology is already in application. As mentioned above, Google is expected to soon launch conversational functionality in searches and their workspace, and Microsoft has already incorporated ChatGPT on Bing.

OTAs are also finding the best ways to incorporate AI into their strategies. In March, Expedia and Kayak became the first travel companies to integrate with ChatGPT so that ChatGPT users can get information on flights and accommodation and click through to book a trip. is the latest OTA to add conversational chat capabilities to its mobile app.

How can lodging businesses prepare?

Although it’s still early to accurately predict how conversational AI will impact bookings, it will likely take care of the preliminary travel research and planning. This might speed up the decision process.

Travel companies are already using ChatGPT in various ways, including providing travel recommendations and itineraries, analyzing a traveler’s history and preferences to provide personalized recommendations, analyzing revenue management reports, refining marketing messaging, and more.

As good as this technology sound, it is wise to use conversational AI cautiously. There are still limitations and uncertainty about data security and reports on incorrect information. Thus, although it can facilitate many processes, conversational AI is aimed at assisting your staff rather than running independently.

Final thoughts

Even though these technologies are still developing, independent lodging properties should stay attentive to changes in traveler search behavior to remain competitive. The discovery stage is crucial in the guest’s journey and should not be overlooked. After all, the first impression lasts, even in the digital world.

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