Adapting to the new normal of travel through digital skills

Noble Horvath

© Provided by The South African World Tourism Day has been observed since 1980 by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, however, the date was initially chosen in 1970 when the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. Travel during a pandemic It’s 2020 […]



a bag of luggage


© Provided by The South African


World Tourism Day has been observed since 1980 by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, however, the date was initially chosen in 1970 when the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted.

Travel during a pandemic

It’s 2020 now and the post-COVID-19 world changed the tourism sector considerably. Pierric Duthoit from Google Global Tourism Acceleration Center explains that travel is the leisure activity he missed the most”. He’s not alone either.

“Our research, conducted with the Boston Consulting Group, shows that 31% of people hope to plan leisure travel once they feel safe enough to do so”. 

COVID-19 or not, people have the travel bug, as can be seen from Google search trends. According to Duthoit the top three travel-related Search queries in June were:

  • When can we travel again?
  • When will international travel resume?
  • When will it be safe to travel again?

In August, the top queries were related to where and when people can travel “right now”. Nearly 50% of the top 100 questions related to travel focused on the impact of COVID-19 and the desire to travel as safely again.

I’ll admit I’ve been one of those Googled some variation of questions highlight above. My personal travel bug bit shortly before COVID-19 closed the world down for business.

Thankfully, up to that point, I had the opportunity to visit Armenia, Kenya and Namibia; and I can’t wait to hit the road again. I have a brand new Pakt backpack, too (we’re all about that minimalist travel lifestyle here).

Adapting to the new normal of travel

Duthoit explains that the “tourism industry relies on historical data to predict future demand”, and adds that Think With Google “can help the tourism sector to identify new trends”.

“In the current high-volatile environment, this is no longer adequate. That’s why we share high-level data and insights about fast-rising travel categories in Google Search like domestic vacations; where in the world searches are growing, and the queries associated with them. Our data and analyses, available on our Think with Google site, can help tourism businesses identify new trends in consumer preferences”.

As an example, he sites how businesses can react to the changing needs in the market by doing marketing campaigns. And it’s easier than ever, now that netizens have digital tools at their disposal to search for local and outdoor events.

A ‘uniquely challenging period for tourism’

According to Duthoit, Think With Google is also partnering with government ministries, businesses and experts throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa “to foster digital skills in the travel sector”.

“For example, we’ve worked with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to train tourism officials and businesses on a range of digital tools to engage travellers at home, and encourage future travel when possible”.

The first UN & Google Tourism Acceleration Program took place virtually on 23 September. The event was designed “for UN member states’ tourism ministers, top travel associations, tourism boards and destination marketing organisations”.

The focus was primarily on travel and tourism insights from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. Duthoit concludes:

“While this World Tourism Day marks a uniquely challenging period for tourism, it’s also an opportunity to prepare and find new ways to engage with would-be travellers. We remain optimistic about the travel industry’s future, and about the role that our tools can play to help it recover”.

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