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Guest Post: Melt Digital takes a deep dive into latest Google travel trends

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Guest Post: Melt Digital takes a deep dive into latest Google travel trends

Melt Digital has been tracking the fortunes of the travel industry throughout the pandemic on its Knowledge Hub. The digital agency takes a snapshot of Google trends to the end of the peak travel season 

Here at Melt, we’ve been closely monitoring Google trends data to anticipate which areas of travel will return to peak first (a score of 100), and what trends might emerge in this new, unknown landscape.

Our aim is simple: to help you navigate a complex Covid-19 landscape that is in constant flux.

Google Trends data should be used as a guide. It’s recommended that you validate any trends data with qualitative and quantitative metrics before taking action.

Methodology

● We defined an initial list of searches for each category
● We used Google Trends API to pull “interest over time” data at scale within the defined category (67 – Travel)
● We visualised summed averaged for each category by week in the ‘interest over time’ graphs
● Finally, we analysed rising queries within related queries tables from the last 30 days to get a sense of what queries are trending in each category.


Flights

Interest over time (YOY)

The flight category covers a variety of queries such as domestic and international, last minute, cheap, and specific airline carriers.

We have also included a top-level comparison between the UK and US to highlight differences in travel trends for two countries at different stages of fighting the virus.

UK

Graph1

 fig 1: summed YOY comparison over time for UK keywords related to flights.

US

Graph2

fig 2: summed YOY comparison over time for US keywords related to flights

Melt takeaways

In the UK signs have been encouraging with consistent steady growth in search interest between week 17 (April 2020) and Week 30 (July 2020) however, in the last few weeks this has subsided.

This may be due to consumers losing confidence in flying again as more and more destinations get added to the quarantine list.

This is compounded by the growing concerns surrounding Portugal being removed from the travel corridor list and Greece which has already been added to Scotland’s list will prompt the rest of the UK to follow suit.

In the US you can see flight-based searches are a lot lower in comparison to previous years and they haven’t experienced the same growth curve as the UK.

It would be interesting to delve more into the split between domestic and international flights within the UK to see if the trend lines follow the same pattern.

Rising queries: “Flights” (UK, last 30 days)

These are rising queries related to “Flights” within the travel category of Google trends for the last 30 days. The higher the value the sharper the increase in recent searches.

variable value
flight radar24 9800
jet2 flight tracker 6350
flight arrivals stansted 250
track flight 200
gatwick flight arrivals 200
flight delay compensation 200
jet2 flights to portugal 200
manchester flight arrivals 190
british airways flights to india 190
flights to portugal 180
bristows flights 160
tui flights to cyprus 140
ryanair flight change fee 130
saudi international flights 110
cheap flights to dubai 110
track a flight 100
aer lingus flights 100

Melt takeaways

When reviewing the top rising queries it’s interesting to see that the ‘flight tracking’ and ‘flight arrival’ terms are again at the top this month.

This could be due to concerns over whether flights will be delayed or even cancelled because of looming quarantine rules or could be because of people monitoring activity in the air pre and during covid to compare.

On the same note we are seeing a lot of people search for an airline plus destination.

During any other time this would be an encouraging sign but coupled with the fact that these destinations are Portugal and Cyprus, this would indicate the intent to find out if that flight is still going ahead or what the cancellation policy is, as suggested by searches like ‘flight delay compensation’ or ‘ryanair flight change fee’.

Looking to long haul, this month we have destinations such as Dubai, India and Saudi Arabia appearing.

With Dubai experiencing temperatures of 30 degrees plus between October and December, it might prove to be a popular alternative destination outside the EU for the rest of the year.

Drilling into individual keywords over time, two queries trending that you can see in the graph below are ‘last minute flights’ and ‘discount flights’.

Both queries have been growing steadily since April, but ‘discount flights’ have shot up in the last two weeks which is something to keep an eye on.

Graph3

fig 3: searches over time for “last minute flights” and “discount flights”


Accommodation

Interest over time (YOY)

The accommodation category covers queries related to popular stay types such as: B&B, hotels, apartments, and camping.

We have also included a comparison between UK accommodation and US lodging types to highlight differences in travel trends for the two countries at different stages of fighting the virus.

UK

Graph4

Fig 4: UK accommodation searches over time

US

Graph5

Fig 5: US accommodation searches over time

Melt takeaways

For the first time this year accommodation searches in both the UK and US are trending higher than the previous two years which is a great sign for the hotel industry.

In the UK, searches have maintained at a comparable level to 2019 for a few weeks now, but have seen a slight dip in the last two weeks. However, in week 35 (w/c 24th August) searches are above what they were in both 2018 and 2019.

This is the same in the US which for the first time in 2020 has surpassed previous year levels. It will be an interesting trend to monitor over the next month to see if it continues or whether it’s a one-off spike in the data.

Rising queries:  “Hotels”  (UK, Last 30 Days) 

These are rising queries related to ‘Hotels’ within the travel category of Google trends for the last 30 days. The higher the value the sharper the increase in recent searches.

variable value
seawood hotel 4050
sidmouth hotel and spa 3600
tynedale hotel llandudno 2150
burn hall hotel york 1300
durrant house hotel 300
hotel sheraton blackpool 300
pentire hotel newquay 250
cameron house hotel 250
sheraton hotel blackpool 250
principal hotel york 200
grays court hotel york 200
borrowdale hotel 200
the cave hotel 200
mercure hotel cardiff 180
bromsgrove hotel and spa 180
salthouse harbour hotel 180
hotels in barnstaple 180
osborne hotel 170
merchant hotel belfast 170
the bristol hotel 160
hotel gotham 140
berry head hotel 140
uig hotel 130
great yarmouth hotels 130
fort william hotels 120
hotels in greenwich 120
blackpool hotel deals 110
viking hotel blackpool 110
hotels in great yarmouth 110
gleneagles hotel 100

Melt takeaways

When looking at the rising queries for ‘Hotels’ only, this month we are seeing a consistent trend to previous months.

As consumer confidence has grown since the restrictions of hotel stays were lifted, people are searching for specific hotel names as opposed to hotels in destination which shows that it’s either a place they are familiar with, or they have carried out prior research.

In terms of the top 10 searches, there are a variety of destinations but they are all UK based, which shows that this growth in searches is largely domestic. Popular UK hotel destinations this month include Exmoor, lake district, Scotland, Devon, and York.

The three following hotels in particular received a lot of interest this month, both Tynedale and Seawood are both luxury high end hotels, whereas Sidmouth appears to gain some search traction due to a landslide on the beach nearby.

seawood hotel
sidmouth hotel and spa
tynedale hotel llandudno

When drilling into the different accommodation types below (Fig 6) we can see some changes over the last month, especially when it comes to ‘camping’, which has seen an expected fall due to the change in weather.

Both ‘cottage’ and ‘bed and breakfast’ searches continue to increase slowly whilst at a steeper rate than hotels, which could indicate that people are still looking for more private or less crowded accommodation.

Graph6

Fig 6: accommodation type searches over time


Cruise

Interest over time (YOY)

The cruise category covers queries related to cruise types, routes, and specific cruise liners.

We have also included a comparison between the UK and the US to highlight differences in travel trends for the two countries that are experiencing the pandemic differently.

UK

Graph10

 fig 7: summed YOY comparison over time for UK keywords related to cruises

US

Graph11

fig 8: summed YOY comparison over time for US keywords related to cruises

Melt takeaways

As you can see above in fig 7, and fig 8, the cruise industry appears to be the travel segment hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of search interest, with both UK and US searches being a lot lower than in previous years.

With both the UK and US, there has been a spike in week 35, but that would require further validation to see if that is a genuine trend that continues over the next few weeks.

Looking at the scale of 1 to 100 for trend scores across the UK and US graphs, you can see that the UK is searching on average, at a higher rate since March, and shows how the two countries attitude towards cruises have differed during this pandemic.

Rising queries: “Cruise” (UK, last 30 days)

These are rising queries related to ‘Cruises’ within the travel category of Google trends for the last 30 days. The higher the value the sharper the increase in recent searches.

variable value
bella cruise 9700
orient queen cruise ship 9700
loch lomond cruises 250
river cruise london 200
cunard cruises 120
cruises 2022 100
windermere cruises 90
sweeneys cruises 90
cruise ship tracker 80
windermere lake cruises 80
cruise ships weymouth 70
bolsover cruise club 50
p and o cruises 2021 40

Melt takeaways

Ignoring ‘Bella Cruise’ which is in fact Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s child, and ‘orient queen cruise ship’ which sunk as part of the devastating Beirut explosion, we can see that searches are relatively limited compared to other segments and have lower rising values.

One trend we’re seeing is that river and loch cruises are on the rise, with searches like ‘river cruise london’ and ‘loch lomond cruises’ which are likely due to people staying in the UK as opposed to travelling internationally.

This is backed up by the below graph (fig 9), showing search interest over time for individual international cruise providers, which hasn’t seen the steep growth upturns like we’ve seen in accommodation types.

Graph12

Fig 9: UK cruise providers searches over time

There is some hope looking at these rising queries with ‘cunard cruises’, ‘cruises 2020’ and ‘p and o cruises 2021′ which is higher than in previous months, potentially indicating that people are open to boarding a cruise in the future.

The qualifying value of including a ’21’ or ’22’ in their search, indicates that people are likely to wait a couple of years before they feel confident to cruise again, or believe that’s when it will become possible without strict guidelines.


Car Hire

Interest over time (YOY)

The cars category covers queries related to driving. They include keywords such as car hire, SUV rentals, road trips, and motorhomes.

We have also included a comparison between the UK and the US to highlight differences in travel trends for two countries that are experiencing the pandemic differently.

UK

Graph13

 fig 10: summed YOY comparison over time for UK keywords related to car hire

US

Graph14

fig 11: summed YOY comparison over time for US keywords related to car hire

Melt takeaways

In the UK the car-hire segment has seen the best bounce-back versus previous years data.

What’s interesting this month, however, is that it appears the trend-line seems to match that of the ‘camping’ in accommodation types, which would indicate that a rise in the previous year’s car-hire searches are related to family and groups hiring additional transport to supplement these holidays.

This is backed up with the below graph (fig 12) which shows the search terms over time.

Graph15

fig 12: ‘car hire’ and ‘caravan hire’ searches over time.

In the US ‘car hire’ related terms continue to be on the gradual rise but are still down on previous year levels.

Rising queries: “Car Hire” (UK, last 30 days)

These are rising queries related to ‘Car hire’ within the travel category of Google trends for the last 30 days. The higher the value the sharper the increase in recent searches.

variable value
ok rent a car 14900
west quay cars 12700
castle car park york 4200
virginia water car park 300
car hire faro airport 300
rental cars uk 140
afford rent a car 110
car hire milton keynes 110
cheap car hire near me 100
car hire inverness airport 80
west wittering beach car park 80
car hire pisa airport 60
car rental edinburgh 50
rent a car london 40

Melt takeaways

Looking at the rising related queries for ‘car hire’ over the last 30 days the number of searches are limited and score low apart from the following:

ok rent a car 14900
west quay cars 12700

Delving further into these two queries we could not find any relevant press coverage to indicate why these searches were so high.

Potentially these brands carried out marketing campaigns or alternatively, offline news associated with these brands caused this spike.

Some positive news for travel marketers as UK consumers are still looking for international airport car hire with references to ‘car hire pisa airport’ and ‘car hire faro airport’.

However, most searches are of domestic intent, with various car park searches such as ‘castle car park york’ and other UK based car hire searches including ‘car hire milton keynes’.


Holidays

Interest over time (YOY)

The holiday category covers queries relating to popular holiday types. They include keywords such as winter holidays, golf holidays, beach holidays, and driving holidays.

We have also included a comparison between the UK holidays and the US vacation searches to highlight differences in travel trends for two countries that are experiencing the pandemic differently.

UK

Graph16

 fig 13: summed YOY comparison over time for UK keywords related to holidays

US

Graph17

fig 14: summed YOY comparison over time for US keywords related to vacations

Melt takeaways

UK holiday searches in week 35 (end of August), are at the same levels that they were at for the previous two years according to Google Trends (fig 9).

This indicates that despite the restrictions in travel, UK consumers are still interested in pursuing holidays of some kind, whether they are what they may have originally planned or not.

Looking at the graph in both 2018 and 2019 search interest for ‘holidays’ tends to drop from week 35, so it will be interesting to see if this trend follows suit in 2020, with the pandemic on-going.

It will also be interesting to see the impact of children going back to school in next month’s report.

In the US, according to the data, vacation searches were on a steeper growth earlier in the pandemic (week 17-23), but searches have plateaued in recent weeks.

However, overall vacation searches appear to be in a healthy place versus previous years in the US.

Rising queries: “Holidays” (UK, last 30 days)

These are rising queries related to ‘Holidays’ within the travel category of Google trends for the last 30 days. The higher the value the sharper the increase in recent searches.

variable value
castaways holiday park 12150
brokerswood holiday park 4700
stella island crete holidays 400
portugal holidays 300
last minute holidays to greece 300
portugal holidays 2020 300
seaview holiday park kent 200
holidays to mykonos 200
cornish cottage holidays 200
alfa holidays 190
all inclusive holidays to greece 170
holidays to portugal 170
tui holidays to greece 160
tui holidays to turkey 140
all inclusive holidays to turkey 140
tui last minute holidays 140
golden sands holiday park rhyl 130
last minute uk holidays 130
mykonos holidays 130
rome holidays 130
marmaris holidays 120
alberta holiday park 110
seton sands holiday village 110
holidays to turkey 2021 110

Melt takeaways

Looking at the top four rising queries for ‘holidays’, we noticed that UK holiday parks and hotels are still the highest scorers this month, as opposed to holidays abroad.

Holiday parks have also been given a boost from the government as they are now allowed to stay open past October, which will hopefully facilitate parks being able to recoup some money lost during the pandemic.

Outside of the UK there is a lot of promise for the travel industry, specifically within the holiday category of the report.

We have seen lots of searches for various Greek islands in particular ‘holidays to mykonos’ and other European countries such as Portugal and Turkey proved to be popular.

We are also starting to see ‘all inclusive’ appear again, which is surprising with current restrictions against buffets and shared dining.

However, with Greece and Portugal on the governments quarantine watch list, this might dramatically change within the next month or so, which shows how important it is to react to these trends in a timely manner.

When delving down into a subset of individual queries over time (Fig 15), we’ve spotted two trends in the data, ‘last minute holidays’ and more recently ‘winter sun holidays’.

This is backed up with the rising queries for ‘last minute holidays to greece’ scoring highly.  ‘Winter sun holidays’ as you can see below (dark blue) has spiked in the last week, so this will be one to keep an eye on and validate over the next few weeks.

Graph18

Fig 15: Holiday type searches over time


We hope you’ve found these trends and insights useful, will be following them up next month to find out how they play out over time for the travel sector.

If you’d like us to monitor any particular trends for you travel or non-travel get in touch via info@meltdigital.com.

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