Exploring Global Trends with Google

Iva Kutle Škrlec, Global Director of Destination Marketing at Google, delivered a keynote on ‘Exploring Global Trends with Google’.

She began by expressing her optimism that travel is returning by showing trend searches on Google that reflect a mix of practical needs and emotional sentiments of people willing to travel. She quoted Google’s CEO on the fact that “Once the emergency is over, the world will not look the same…. These changes walk be significant and lasting”.

Iva Kutle Škrlec, Global Director Destination Marketing at Google, delivered a keynote on ‘Exploring Global Trends with Google’. She began by expressing her optimism that travel is returning by showing trend searches on Google that reflect a mix of practical needs and emotional sentiments of people willing to travel. She quoted Google’s CEO on the fact that “Once the emergency is over, the world will not look the same…. These changes walk be significant and lasting”.

Iva reflected that the tourism and travel industry is ‘weathering the storm’. Signs are recovery are seen in different regions. Surprisingly, cruises are showing the strongest recovery. In Europe, city breaks and hotels are showing the strongest recovery. In the US, double-digit growth also gives confidence, especially in cruises and air searches.

In APAC, a mixed picture shows a slightly more patchy picture. Currently, the top destinations in the EMEA region are Spain, France, Germany. In APAC, Japan, India, Indonesia, Thailand are trending. Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Columbia and Chile in LATAM and Turkey, UAE, Morocco, Egypt and Israel in the Mena region are trending.

She mentioned that surveys show that consumers are keen to get back to travel over other activities such as clothes shopping. Additionally, vaccination rates are directly influencing travel emends and searches. However, we must begin to mind that. This is a word of caution. Things can fluctuate rapidly and overnight, which points to the importance of agility. With that being said, we need to be prepared for unexpected demand and seasonability patternsthat buck the norm. The red line in 2020 shows that people can stop and start travelling at any point as we see a move away from the traditional planning cycle. This points to the importance of being ‘always on’ and ‘always there’.

Iva mentioned that consumer journeys are no longer the same as pre-pandemic as we don’t get up and go whenever we want. Complexity has defined the consumer post-pandemic, cancellations emerging from concerns, doubt, financial reasons or barriers. High levels of search on ‘where to travel to’ suggests that consumers are more open to ideas about where to travel but also driven by where they can go. This is an opportunity as a travel brand to be visible to non-traditional consumers where there may be an opportunity to develop an entirely new niche.

Travellers now spend more time than ever researching , Short from 24% to 70% is research time is noticeable. of consumers spending longer researching and also spending more time whilst travelling. The pandemic has also led to more time spent on social media, YouTube continues to be a source of inspiration and dreaming, where YouTube showed itself as first in terms of usefulness according to research as a travel research platform. This affirms why it is so important to have adequate and useful video content to be relevant in the planning phase. However, it’s important to recognise that this is not only about inspiration but also a functional channel, where you can expand on answers and provide clarification to key questions.

Iva mentioned that authentic and real digital decisions are what are driving the decisions. Influencers and bloggers continue to be reliable sources of information, considering 3 in 4 travellers are impacted by user generated booking decisions, with a similarly high number from professional sources.

  1. Has your media strategy changed?
  2. How are you considering the role of influencers?
  3. Are there new audiences you could be reaching now?

Loyalty in travel has changed. Leisure and business travel are defined to staycations and workations. Accordingly, the tourism and travel industry shift their vision in thinking about customers. Iva mentioned that 40% of Consumers are purchasing from new companies that offer relevant value. Millennials and Get Zs, specifically don’t base decisions on loyalty but comfort. This means if loyalty is driving your business, think about the reasons that people come back and make sure you incorporate as many of those in possible such as positive experiences, good value for money, customer service etc.

With COVID-19, flexibility remains a key decision factor even into the recovery period. The competition  is no longer with other travel companies but the best  experience travellers have had and that includes anyone in the digital space who are part the consumers digital experiences.

Iva led us to think of fundamental questions:

  1. How are you responding to newfound needs, including tailoring experiences and products?
  2. What steps are you taking to ensure you’re in the consideration set?
  3. What changes are you making to your loyalty approach?

Consequently, the industry is seeing an increased optimism. However, uncertainty remains. Thus, information needs to be communicated digitally. Businesses need to:

  1. Stay informed on market trends,
  2. Capture the changing demand and user behaviour
  3. Avoid missing opportunities to reach travellers
  4. Meet users where they are looking for inspiration or research

This is achievable if businesses review demand through travel insights, seize pent-up demand, ensure proper coverage and update their visibility.

Lastly Iva provided a few suggestions for businesses to remain competitive as the landscape shifts in the wake of covid-19.

  1. Update the Google My Business Profile to reflect changes to business
  2. Create a resources section to field questions and clarifications
  3. Bring the situation to life with video content
  4. Education is key, stay on top of trends and help your industry to do the same

Key Takeaways

1. Consumers' behaviour and, accordingly, travel trends have changed during the pandemic. However, there is optimism that travel will return. Signs of recovery are being seen across the sectors and in different regions worldwide.

2. The industry has to be cautious of the changes due to the pandemic and plan for unexpected events, consumer demands, and seasonality.

3. Sectors across the travel industry can leverage the fact that consumer journeys have changed to make themselves more visible and reach non-traditional consumers.

4. Digital is driving consumers decision making processes. As a result, digital presence and digital marketing on social media and YouTube are key to inspire travellers and provide answers to the audience.

Published on:
December 2021
About the contributor

Iva Kutle Škrlec

Iva is the Global Destination Marketing Partner at Google and prior to that, she has been with Google Dubai for over 5 years managing some of the company's biggest travel and tourism clients including Emirates Airline, Dubai Tourism Board and Expo 2020.