TORONTO — “Where to travel?” A record-breaking number of Canadians have Googled these three words in the last year, indicating a firestorm of travel interest and a massive opportunity for travel agents.
According to Matt Smith, Head of Travel Industry at Google Canada, searches for “where to travel” reached an all-time high in March 2022, right around the same time the federal government finally dropped pre-arrival COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travellers. Since then, searches have remained above 2019’s pre-pandemic levels, with search interest today being double than what it was in March 2019.
This, he says, makes now a prime time for travel agents and travel brands to reach out to clients and hone in on their interests.
“With the vast majority of travellers still undecided and open to ideas, there is a massive opportunity for travel brands to show up and help consumers look for inspiration, research destinations or compare prices,” Smith tells Travelweek.
Smith recommends YouTube as a way to “inspire and drive awareness and consideration,” and says Search is the number one place to “capture intent and reach travellers with the right message at the right time.” Travel agencies and travel companies can also take advantage of Google’s advertising solutions, which he says are “built with an AI-first approach” and include new formats like Performance Max, allowing marketers to tap into many Google formats under a single product. “This leads to easier and more impactful marketing for travel brands and a better experience for prospective travellers,” says Smith.
Other new resources launched recently to spearhead the recovery of travel businesses during the pandemic include Travel Insights with Google, which was first tested in 2021 in the Asia Pacific region but has since rolled out to the rest of the world, including Canada. It includes Destination Insights, a tool that provides a clear picture of top sources of demand per destination, and Hotel Insights, which explores booking trends and breaks down hotel interest per region.
Coupled with research and the right marketing approach, travel agents and travel companies can then drive bookings to what Google Flights has determined to be the top 10 trending international destinations from Dec. 26, 2022 to Feb. 17, 2023. They are as follows:
- Rome, Italy
- Shanghai, China
- Athens, Greece
- Beijing, China
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Dublin, Ireland
- Nashville, USA
- Reykjavik, Iceland
- Barcelona Spain
- Las Vegas, USA
For those who prefer sun and fun, the top trending sun destinations according to Google Flights are:
- Orlando, Florida
- Miami, Florida
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- Havana, Cuba
- Tampa, Florida
- Palm Springs, California
- San Diego, California
- Montego Bay, Jamaica
Both top 10 lists, says Smith, reflect a massive shift in interest among Canadians from domestic travel to international.
“Over the past three years, we’ve really seen a huge increase in interest for domestic travel, but now it’s safe to say that international travel is back,” he says, noting the return of classic destinations like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Montego Bay and Punta Cana. “What’s more is that all the destinations on our top sun destinations lists are seeing over 50% growth over last year, and searches for places like Rome, Athens, Lisbon and Shanghai are growing over 70% year on year.”
This momentum will certainly carry over into the busy summer season. As Smith notes, travel searches on Google are showing “some serious strength,” surpassing 2019 levels and sending a big message that Canadians are prioritizing travel when it comes to how they’re spending their savings, even with inflation and economic uncertainties.
“Over the last year, you may have heard of the term ‘revenge travel,’ which is the idea that travellers are looking to make up for lost time. However, it’s much bigger than that,” says Smith. “Canadians have realized how important travel is in their lives. We’re excited to see Canadians go back to exploring the world.”