Skift Take

Google has the data to understand exactly how the travel industry has changed post-pandemic — and how its technology needs to change with it.

As travel habits change and technology gets better, Google is working to adapt its services for both companies and consumers. Finnbar Cornwall, industry sector leader for travel at Google UK, shared some points about the company’s travel efforts during the Skift Future of Lodging Forum on Wednesday.

Consumers are prioritizing more money for travel this year, and they are spending more time on trip planning than the trip itself, Cornwall said, referencing Google research. And 40 percent of travelers are open to new brands, a stat largely driven by younger generations. 

“We need to meet consumers where they are, how they’re looking, and what they’re looking for,” Cornwall said. 

Cornwall pointed to those trends as a reason why he believes hotels can benefit from a tool that Google is rolling out this month, called Performance Max for travel goals, which is meant to increase revenue and drive more direct bookings. 

The tool enables hotels to create digital ads in multiple formats to reach travelers across ad channels, including YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps, with plans for Hotel Ads to be added later this year. Previously, hotels had to create separate campaigns for each of these channels. 

“We’ve seen people start to use this getting great results; it’s in very early stages of testing,” he said. “But you can use Google’s AI to take the heavy lifting and setting the bids, finding the right ads, showing them to the right person at the right time.”

In response to the growing popularity for vacation rentals, Google has been adding features to help travelers consider that as an option when searching for hotels. Among features, users can search for properties based on a location and adjust dates based on rental availability. There’s another filter in development that will allow users to filter by distance from a location or by interest. 

“The reason for that is our research shows us that about 20 percent of people end up choosing a vacation rental,” Cornwall said. “They never did it because they just hadn’t thought about it before, but actually, it does meet their needs just as well as a hotel.”

Google has also added features meant to help consumers make eco-friendly choices during their travel searches, part of the company’s plan this year to help a billion people make a more sustainable choice, Cornwall said. 

That includes showing carbon emission information in Maps and Flights. And hotels are able to share information about their environmental credentials as well as sustainability efforts they are making.

“There’s definitely rising interest in trying to find somewhere to stay that’s more sustainable, and so we’re trying to reflect that, again, in how our products work,” he said.

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Tags: future of lodging, google, Google Hotels, skift future of lodging forum, skift live

Photo credit: Finnbar Cornwall is the industry sector leader for travel at Google UK. Russell Harper

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