While the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t yet over, travel restrictions are loosening around the world. And as vaccines become increasingly available, more people are willing to travel for non-essential reasons.
That’s why Google has released three new updates to help its users travel safely in 2021 and beyond.
- More Accessible Travel Guidance Information
- Fun Destination Ideas
- Easy Road Trip Planning
- How Local Businesses Can Benefit from Google’s Travel Updates
More Accessible Travel Guidance Information
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, national, regional and local travel restrictions have fluctuated rapidly. Regulations have varied not only between countries, but also between states, counties and even individual cities.
For instance, while some areas have at times required visitors to provide a negative COVID-19 test, self-quarantine or both, others simply encourage visitors to do so but do not enforce it.
In response to this variation, one of Google’s travel updates is designed to help users quickly determine if there are any restrictions they need to know about at their destination.
Here’s what it looks like when you search for travel information—in this case, we searched for flights to Tokyo, where strict travel restrictions are currently in place:
Google also states that logged-in users can choose to be sent emails about restriction updates, though at the time of writing we were unable to see such an option.
Fun Destination Ideas
Travelers are always looking for new activities to do and sights to see at their destination of choice, which is why sites like Tripadvisor have thrived for years.
Now Google is moving into that space as well, giving viewers an easy way to view top sights, experiences, neighborhoods and even reasons for visiting. You can view them by clicking on the Things to do tab:
While established sites such as Tripadvisor likely aren’t too excited about this change, it does give local businesses a greater opportunity to reach potential customers via Google’s built-in functionalities.
Easy Road Trip Planning
Road trips might be all about freedom and exploration, but they often require a great deal of planning and preparation. With that in mind, Google is giving sites like Roadtrippers a run for their money by offering users a straightforward way to plan road trips right from within Google Maps.
To leverage it, simply use Google Maps’ desktop site to get directions from one location to another. Then, click the Add destination button under the two locations in the left-hand navigation menu:
You’ll then have the option to either type in a location yourself or simply click on one on the map:
When you’re finished, you can send the completed directions to your smartphone via email, text or the Google Maps app. If you use the app, you’ll also have the ability to quickly update your route on the fly.
In a time when many people are more comfortable driving in their own vehicle than they are boarding a crowded plane, train or bus, we predict this feature will be a hit with Google Maps users.
How Local Businesses Can Benefit from Google’s Travel Updates
The latest travel updates may be designed to make users’ mid-pandemic travel experiences safer and easier to plan, but they also present an opportunity for local businesses to catch potential customers’ attention.
That’s because two of the three new features (destination ideas and road trip planning) help users find new places to visit during their journey. So if you’re trying to get more foot traffic for a local business, you need to optimize its site accordingly.
To start, we recommend optimizing your Google My Business listing for maximum impact. This means:
- fleshing out and verifying the listing’s information;
- uploading as many high-quality photos as possible;
- responding to customer reviews; and
- adding regular updates.
Next, take note of our general local SEO guidelines to help put your business’s name on the map (both figuratively and literally). This entails:
- establishing relevance in your niche;
- making sure the business’s exact location is specified;
- creating unique content for each location you may have;
- encouraging customers to leave reviews;
- striving to build an active online community; and
- working with local influencers.
More Travelers on Google = More Business for You
For local businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a greater influx of visitors signals a welcome increase in business. And as Google works to make travel easier than ever for cautious adventurers, it’s up to you to capitalize on its latest travel updates by ensuring your business is as visible as possible. If you do, you may be able to gain more traffic (and paying customers!) as a result.
Want to hear Google’s own explanations of its new travel updates? Check out its official blog post on the topic.
Screenshots by author / April 2021