Pictured: Google’s Ruairidh Roberts
The desire for Travel bounces back soon after terror attacks, according to Google searches. Lee Hayhurst reports from an Accord seminar
Interest in travel suffered significant downturns following major terrorist incidents in the past year, but bounced back quickly and remains positive, according to Google search data.
The search engine’s data illustrates the resilience of travellers, Ruairidh Roberts, Google’s travel industry head, told last week’s Accord annual Travel Trends seminar, hosted by Google.
Search data for the EMEA region for the past year, dating from before the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 when query growth was 12%, reveals significant peaks and troughs.
The data shows that after terror attacks, including those in Paris, Turkey and Belgium, travel searches rebound quickly and are growing by about 5%.
Roberts said other significant events such as Brexit and the slump in the value of the pound had also had minimal long-term impact.
“Nobody cared [about the pound’s fall in value] until it was massively in the news,” he said.
“The mass market do not care; they are unaware; they are going to book their holiday anyway.
“That in itself is an optimistic signal, that what we worry about [in the travel industry] is not necessarily what our customers are worrying about.”
Roberts said interest in the value of the pound against the euro and dollar spiked after the referendum, but went straight back down again.
He said this suggests concerns are heightened when issues feature heavily in the news and people “probably do not realise it [going on holiday] is more expensive than last year”.
Among other trends Google is seeing is a move towards bookings closer to departure.
Google data for the UK shows a growth in bookings three to six months out, but much more significant growth between one and three months before departure. Bookings made within one month of travel have almost doubled, but this group was the smallest in number.
Roberts said people were also changing their decisions about where to travel. When asked in September where they would go if not the EU, 32% of people opted for the UK, 18% for the US, 8% for Asia and 11% for other Commonwealth destinations.
Google research also indicates people are becoming increasingly comfortable booking online, with 90% saying they wanted to book via the web in 2016, up from 82% in 2015.
In a survey of more than 4,000 people conducted in the US, UK, France and Germany last November, online travel agents came out as the mostpreferred booking channel.
OTAs were preferred by more than half of people for bookings in the next 12 months, followed by 48% for hotel websites, 29% for travel agents and Airbnb and other rental sites on 33%.
Mobile is the only device showing a growth in search queries among users in the EMEA region. Generic travel queries are higher on mobile than on desktop (42% v 40%); destination queries by desktop just pip mobile (42% v 41%); but brand queries on desktop are still some way ahead of mobile (47% v 35%).
Roberts said the message to travel firms is not to “shut their door” to mobile business. “It may not be the most amazing converting device, but does that matter? Why not ensure people are engaging with your brand and content, and the travel opportunities you offer?”