Google is launching new features to help consumers plan a
trip – or just begin to dream about one – as searches for travel-related
queries are tracking above pre-pandemic levels.
In the Q1 earnings call for Google’s parent Alphabet last
week, Google chief business officer Phillip Schindler says, “People are
seemingly back on the move – whether they’re searching for planes, passports,
or their next vacation destination, Q1 travel searches were above Q1 ‘19
pre-pandemic levels. Query growth in categories like ‘beaches and islands’ were
up 27% versus 2019, while ‘vacation rentals’ rose 37%. Compared to last year,
global searches for ‘passport online’ jumped 80%, while searches for ‘travel
insurance’ surged 2X.”
On Google Flights, users can now track prices between two
cities for travel in the next three to six months. When the system detects a
lower-than-typical fare, the alert is sent. Prior to this update, the price
alerts could only be enabled for travel on specific dates.
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Google is also updating its tools related to road trips. Now
using the Explore tool users can click “Explore nearby” to narrow the search to
places within a few hours driving distance. Clicking on a destination brings up
information on things to see and do, average hotel prices and monthly weather
To help users narrow down where to stay in a city, Google
has added “interest layers” to the map. These filters allow users to choose “dining,”
“shopping” or “sightseeing” to see which parts of the city offer the most
options. Hotel searches can also now be done based on proximity to a landmark
or address – after entering the location users can toggle to show properties
within a 15- or 30-minute trip by foot or by car.
And to keep track of properties to consider, users can now
save any hotel or vacation rental. Saved properties appear in a “Saved” tab on mobile
or in the right-hand panel on desktop.
Google says flight searches by people in the United States
between January and mid-April for travel between June and August show a growing
interest in international travel. Five of the top 20 destinations being
searched for summer vacations are European cities (London, Paris, Rome, Athens,
Lisbon). That’s a stark contrast to last year when Cancun was the only
international city in the top 20.
Some other data of note – search interest in “luxury hotels
near me” is more than double the 2019 level and searches for “single cruises”
are up more than 250%. Searches for “passport appointments” grew by more than
300% in the first three months of this year.