Google enhances trip-planning tools as travel searches boom

Google is launching new features to help consumers plan a trip — or start dreaming about one — as searches for travel-related queries surpass pre-pandemic levels.

On the first quarter earnings call for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, last week, Google Chief Commercial Officer Phillip Schindler said: “People are apparently back on the move – whether they’re looking for planes, passports or their next vacation destination, Q1 travel searches were above Q1 2019 pre-pandemic levels. compared to 2019, while “holiday rentals” increased by 37% Compared to last year, global searches for “online passport” jumped by 80%, while searches for “travel insurance” have doubled.”

On Google Flights, users can now track prices between two cities for travel within the next three to six months. When the system detects a lower than average rate, the alert is sent. Prior to this update, price alerts could only be enabled for trips on specific dates.

Google is also updating its tools related to road trips. Now, using the Explore tool, users can click “Explore Nearby” to limit the search to places within a few hours drive. Clicking on a destination gives you information on things to see and do, average hotel prices and monthly weather data.

To help users figure out where to stay in a city, Google has added “interest layers” to the map. These filters allow users to choose “restaurant”, “shopping” or “sightseeing” to see which parts of the city offer the most options. Hotel searches can also now be performed based on proximity to a landmark or address – after entering the location, users can toggle to view properties within a 15 or 30 minute drive on foot or by car.

And to keep track of properties to consider, users can now save any hotel or vacation rental. Saved properties appear in a “Saved” tab on mobile or in the right panel on desktop.

According to Google, searches for flights made by people in the United States between January and mid-April for travel between June and August show a growing interest in international travel. Five of the top 20 most popular summer vacation destinations are European cities (London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Lisbon). It’s a stark contrast to last year, when Cancun was the only international city in the top 20.

Some other data to note – search interest for “luxury hotels near me” is more than double the level of 2019 and searches for “simple cruises” have increased by more than 250%. Searches for “passport appointment” have increased by more than 300% in the first three months of this year.