NB: This is an article from HeBS Digital
Earlier this week, Google launched further into the world of travel with the release of Google Trips, a smartphone app that serves as a personalized tour guide. The app, which is available for Android or Apple devices, has the potential to shift travel data in a new direction by way of acting as a new front-end for existing information. By pulling data from Google Maps, Flights, and Places and marrying that information with travel information stored in your e-mail, Google is encouraging habitual use and ultimately shifting the way travelers utilize relevant information on-the-go. Not only does the app store reservation details in one place even without access to an Internet connection, it also suggests activities for what to do at a particular location based on weather, time of day, and past behavior.
Should tour guides and hoteliers be worried? Not necessarily. Google’s commitment to providing services and products that aid users across a variety of tasks makes their further exploration into the travel and hospitality sector an inevitability when considering the frequency with which we travel. According to the U.S. Travel Association in 2015, U.S. residents logged 1.7 billion person-trips for leisure purposes with the intent of visiting relatives, shopping, visiting friends, going to the beach and many other activities. Other types of travel are growing too, with U.S. residents logging 459 million person-trips for business related purposed in 2015. With $2.1 trillion in economic output generated by domestic and international visitors in that same year, we should not expect to see Google retreat from this sector any time soon.
Google Trips makes it easy to see which attractions are open and estimate how long it will take travelers to get from one destination to another, helping individuals make the most of their time. However, when travelers find a match to a restaurant, bar, hotel or area attraction that matches their itinerary, they cannot make a reservation without contacting the provider directly. By virtue of its design, Google Trips is more appropriately marketed as a place to store information about a trip once plans have already been made. For those in vacation mode, the app serves a very specialized function despite its early limitations.
Today, the app serves as a purely organic product and Google’s main priority appears to be building a positive user experience before exploring advertising functionalities within Google Trips. To be seen and remain competitive in a digital landscape, hoteliers should ensure that they have developed a robust digital marketing strategy that not only attracts customers at every point in the purchase funnel but also is personalized to their target markets. Since Google Trip’s algorithm appears to have a solely organic function, hoteliers should ensure that they have a mobile-friendly website that offers fresh, unique content that is search engine optimized. Further, hoteliers should focus on strategies that drive traffic and bookings directly to their site including setting up local listings and directories to maintain a consistent local search presence, encouraging and responding to user reviews, and focusing on off-page SEO strategies to impact the many ranking signals that Google considers.
Google has succeeded in developing a product that will likely be part of the travel experience for many. In addition to focusing attention to their own digital marketing strategies, hoteliers can supplement the information that travelers find on Google Trips with an editorial voice to provide their clients with the human touch that travel often demands. In that capacity, hoteliers can help guests craft a truly personalized experience, helping them find places to go and things to do that travelers and the app may have not necessarily have known to look for. How can independent and branded properties begin to accomplish this this? A good place to start is with engaging content.