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The Impact of Destinations on Google

Lucas Cobb

Google announced this week that they are bringing together their hotel and flight tools into a single integrated vacation/destination planning tool simply named “Destinations on Google.” The tool offers estimated total trip costs by date, best times of year to visit or find lowest rates as well as when to avoid bad weather.

The tool is accessed on Google by entering a query for a state, country or continent of interest plus “destinations” such as “European destinations.” The tool appears above both paid and organic listings:

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Interestingly, Google has opted to offer this tool only to mobile users, for now. This is likely based on observations that users are doing more and more of their research on portable devices. In a report earlier this year, Google cited seeing a 50% year-over-year increase in travel related queries entered on mobile in 2015. Consider also that less than three weeks ago, Google eliminated the right rail paid search ads, and now mobile and desktop layouts appear nearly identical. It won’t be long before this “Destinations” tool shows up there as well.

When you click to explore a specific destination, Google takes you to a non-traditional results page which points out itineraries, attractions, average flight and hotel costs and user generated content such as videos from YouTube. See sample from Key West:

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Example 2:

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This view is taking the user away from exploring any website that may be associated with a DMO or CVB and further positioning Google in the center of the trip planning process. This move has opened a new front in the battle DMOs are fighting to maintain relevance on the ever-shifting travel marketing landscape.

This is not good news for our clients that receive a substantial portion of their site visitors from Google’s organic traffic. We’ve already seen an average double digit decrease in organic traffic in 2015 on tourism sites as a result of Google’s increased display of Points of Interest above all other results. We expect this shift to continue.

Of course, Google is limiting this search and results view to very few keyphrases. You will not see this if you search “Florida Vacation” for example. But, certainly it’s just a matter of time before these highly valued terms get compromised as well.

TripAdvisor has utilized the “Destination” page for years -- and has even monetized it as an advertising product. Is this in the books for Google as well? Even if monetization of this inventory isn’t the plan, it’s still a very concerning development. Destinations should be reaching out through their agencies for more information on the plans for this. We know we will be.

View the official announcement: 

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