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Study shows how Google Trends can predict tourism levels

Posted on February 5, 2020

 

A working paper released by the International Monetary Fund has drawn a link between Google searches and tourist visits, potentially giving governments a clue as to how many holidaymakers they can expect.

Called ‘Where Should We Go? Internet Searches and Tourist Arrivals’, the paper was published last Friday and studied Google Trends data between 2004 and 2018, seeking to find any connection between this and visits to The Bahamas from the United States.

The study found that by combining traditional forecasting models with Google Trends data, estimates of tourism volumes became 30% more accurate. This could be a valuable insight for nations like The Bahamas, where tourism accounts for almost half (48%) of its gross domestic product, and tourist visits increased by 9.8% between 2008 and 2018.

The paper’s author, Serhan Cevik, notes that tourism is highly subject to volatility, and that Google Trends may be able to help governments get a better understanding of the “external factors” that might cause tourist visits to go up or down, and allow them to budget according to these forecasts.

Google Trends is generally an indication of “buzz” levels about a subject, and can often back up statistics. For example, this article states that US visitors to Iceland doubled between 2014 and 2016. Below is a graph for US Google search volumes for ‘Iceland holidays’ from 2013 to the present.

We can see from it that the November 2016 volume was much higher than that of November 2014 (indicated by the small blue circle on the graph line), and it peaked just two months later in January 2017.

In the past, we have used Google Trends here at Engage Web to predict outcomes of politics and reality television. Results have been mixed, but Trends is an indication of what people are thinking and talking about, so it’s no major surprise that it can be used as a compass to real-world events.

If you run a business, whether in tourism or any other sector, it’s wise to make use of freely available tools like Google Trends to get an understanding of what people are searching for and how it can shape your content. For research and strategy-driven search engine optimisation for your website, why not get in contact with us?

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