As the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the travel industry hard, Google is now trying to add new tools to its travel feature that will highlight any virus-related information for users in order to help them plan their travel better in the near future.
These tools will include local Covid-19 case counts, trip search rules and whether the hotel offers free cancellations among many others.
For example, type Los Angeles into any of those booking engines and, along with the usual options, you’ll also get real-time data on the number of Covid-19 cases there along with how many flights and hotels have resumed service. No other major travel provider is currently displaying this level of detail.
Essentially, these new additions include “travel trends” that show what percentage of hotels have availability and flights in operation to that area (using data sourced from prior Google hotel and flight booking). These trends and features join the existing alerts about whether there’s currently a travel advisory for your destination in Google search.
The feature will also be enabled on Google Travel when searching for a hotel, flight, or vacation stays and prices. Moreover, Google Travel is also getting an additional feature that shows if your vacation reservation is offering free refunds — with an additional option to filter your searches exclusively by that criterion.
However, some basic things still require fleshing out. Google’s links to travel advisories are nationwide rather than state-specific, which means the usefulness of the information depends on the country you’re searching and can vary widely. Responsible travellers will still have to look up local testing and quarantine requirements.
And, while knowing the percentage of operational hotels helps, it doesn’t distinguish which of those available options is better equipped to provide a safe stay.
With inputs from Bloomberg