Skift Take

The new Google search results in an age of AI-powered search is a fascinating mix of usefulness, uselessness, and sheer overwhelm of formats.

This past week, Google made a significant leap in the AI-driven search domain with the launch of its latest search capabilities and a more advanced Gemini AI model.

A new AI Overview stands out as a key feature in Google Search, and provides comprehensive summaries for complex travel queries. For instance, a query about the best time to visit London now generates a curated overview, complete with suggested itineraries, travel tips, and related multimedia content.

This represents a big shift from traditional search listings and new ground for travel and tourism brands and organizations to understand and master.

Many of these changes in Google Search have been going on for a few years now, and this is a new phase of AI.

I did a 10-minute video walkthrough based on the popular query, “What’s the best time to visit London?” You will see how mind-bogglingly complex this new world is, for travelers and industry folks alike.

Watch the Video

Watch on YouTube for closed captions

My observations:

  • It is still early: AI answers have not been turned on for all queries or for all countries – it is still being rolled out.
  • This works best for purely informational queries – “best time to visit”-type questions. Anything with shades of gray doesn’t yet turn up AI-generated answers.
  • Results are a lot richer on mobile than on desktop.
  • The travel information landscape is now infinitely more complex, as Google is pulling results from across many different media and display formats and creating many different formats of display within search results.
  • Besides the results for the actual query itself, Google is now trying to push many related queries down your throat in hopes of keeping you engaged for a longer time.
  • Official tourism board websites – which weren’t the most heavily trafficked sources of traveler information to begin with – will be even less relevant in this new environment. The most DMOs can hope for is that Google pulls some snippets from their sites. But as our example shows, Visit London barely gets two links or snippets in the very long results page. This was the same across many other destinations I tested.
  • Trusted reader forums take on an important meaning in this age. Google is prioritizing sites like Reddit and Quora and, in travel specifically, Tripadvisor’s forums, which have generally been ignored by the company and usually have very outdated information.
  • Reddit as a source of competition for any travel information query is the biggest new change in search in 2024, and there is very little the brands can do about it.
  • It will contextualize results based on your location, which has been the case for a while now.
  • YouTube videos are very important in the Google search environment and the technology has advanced a lot such that it can extract exact answers in the form of video snippets.
  • Ads on Google will continue to have a part. But it’s unclear how inventory to display them will be affected if people can get answers right away for many easy queries.

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Tags: ai, artificial intelligence, google, search, the prompt, tourism

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