Google Travel exhorts tourism conference attendees to win the Web |

Google Travel exhorts tourism conference attendees to win the Web

Michael Schrantz

— Everybody huddle around. Hands in. Let's go win the Web on three!

On one of the last slides of one of the last breakout sessions of the Colorado Tourism Conference, which could have been mistaken for a Web conference, Google Travel's John Thornton exhorted those in attendance Friday to do just that: Win the Web.

During the conference, tourism professionals and business owners might have sat through sessions on Web analytics techniques, how to build a website and how to draw up and measure a new media strategy, or they could have been down the hall absorbing best social media practices.

Now, it's time. Go forth, and win the Web.

No one seemed to doubt the importance of this, but if anyone was on the fence and keeping it to themselves, Thornton had numbers to sway them.

According to Thornton, 83 percent of leisure travelers plan online, and that number is 76 percent for business travelers.

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Search query traffic for the travel category is growing, he said. More than half of travelers brainstormed online about where to travel. Sixty-five percent of leisure travelers and 70 percent of affluent travelers do online research before making plans, according to Thornton. Of U.S. travelers, he said, 74 percent visit at least one website when selecting a destination.

And all this online activity works in a cycle, according to Thornton.

First, you dream about a vacation, then research the vacation, book a trip, take the trip and, lastly, share the experience. And the reviews left on TripAdvisor, +1s given on Google Plus and jealousy-inciting Facebook posts will start the next person dreaming.

In laying out just what can be done to take advantage of that cycle, Thornton focused on three areas: mobile, video and social.

Thornton said that for the first time, the number of Google search queries on desktops is not expected to rise next year. But Google is not worried because the boom in mobile search queries is expected to be tremendous.

And the unprecedented adoption rates of smartphones and tablets will only continue to drive that number, he said. Making sure travelers have a good mobile experience is paramount.

On the video front, Thornton said about one-quarter of a person's time on the Internet is spent watching videos.

Thornton said 55 percent of baby boomers have watched an online video in the past month, much to the relief of those catering to the "How do I use The Google?" demographic.

And content like videos is prime for social sharing.

"The payoff of sharing is huge," Thornton said.

It might not even be the video created by the destination that makes the most impact. Thornton said 77 percent of brand content is created by consumers.

"A brand is only what it's perceived to be," he said.

Forty percent of travelers use social media to complete their decision. Sixty-seven percent trust online reviews. On that note, have thick skin, Thornton said. "Some situations are tough."

Make the Web work for you, Thornton said. Research. Make decisions. Look at the data. Make better decisions.

It's what travelers are doing.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email

As a bonus here is a PSA video made by students in 1995 that Thornton led off with. Eerie, right?

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