Google Mapping Your Way to Positive Destination Perception

Destination marketers today are operating in an increasingly digital world. They’re now responsible for managing perception and brand for their destination across a growing list of platforms that contribute to travel planning and in-destination experience. With so many platforms begging for attention, the challenge is identifying the best place to start.

The answer is Google Maps.

79% of consumers use Google Maps as a part of their travel experience (Skift Report, Deep Dive into Google 2020) and 67% use the “Explore Nearby” feature as part of researching or booking trips (Phocuswright, Travel Technology Survey, Q4 2019). As these travellers chart their routes and itineraries, they’re virtually exploring key points of interest and local businesses solely through their representation in this singularly powerful platform. And, each unique listing along the way will either positively, or negatively, contribute to that searcher’s overall perception of the destination.

With more than 3 billion direct free connections being made each month in the Maps application (Google’s Economic Impact data, 2019), destination marketers can find huge opportunities within this channel. By working in concert with stakeholders, it’s possible to ensure every point of interest and discoverable local business showcases accurate information and visually appealing imagery in order to proactively shape positive destination perception.

Gate 7 and Miles Partnership have worked with destinations to customise the Digital Destination Optimisation program to improve destination perception, drive stronger tourism outcomes, and provide targeted support to local businesses by investing in their presence on Google Maps.

Supporting Positive Perception

If destination marketing organisations (DMOs) aren’t paying attention to how their destinations are being holistically represented online, then who is?

The Digital Destination Optimisation program helps destination marketers ensure Google Maps has accurate information, navigation, and high-quality imagery associated with key points of interest to encourage confidence and positive perception of their destination.

Case Study: Wayfinding Accuracy – The Pinnacles, New Zealand

During a comprehensive destination audit, we discovered Google Maps was sending visitors to the Pinnacles in the wrong direction on an unsafe trail that extended the journey by two hours. We worked directly with the Google Maps team to implement a more accurate and safer navigation route to provide travellers.

Case Study: Tourism Asset Identity – Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka’s Google Travel Guide incorrectly showcased images of Lake Hayes, a completely different destination that is over 90 minutes away. We helped replace the incorrect images with accurate and appropriate images of Lake Wanaka.

Preparing Local Communities and Businesses

Optimising local business profiles on Google Maps has a positive ripple effect that improves engagement with other nearby businesses and destination tourism assets.

Up-to-date profiles are 70% more likely to attract location visits and are 50% more likely to lead to a purchase for businesses (Ipsos research, 2017). To maximise perception, it’s critical to ensure both points of interest and local stakeholders are working in concert to convey the destination brand message.

Case Study: Listing Quality & Completeness – Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka Tourism wanted to improve the accuracy and completeness of listings for all critical tourism stakeholders in the region. Through targeted training workshops for local business owners, the DMO was able to improve crucial metrics including business verification and quantity/accuracy of listing content.

Case Study: Improving economic outcomes with digital upskilling – New Mexico

With all advertising on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Mexico Tourism Department saw an opportunity to capitalise on unplanned downtime by launching an initiative to improve the digital readiness & representation of regional destinations across New Mexico by providing immediate support to struggling communities and tourism businesses.

By subsidising the Digital Destination Optimisation program for it’s stakeholders, New Mexico Tourism Department provided thirty-two regional destinations with complimentary audit, activation, training & content creation services at no additional cost to the individual RTOs. During the subsequent audits of more than 4,800 individual Google business listings, we found 13% of these businesses were missing from Google and 29% had yet to be claimed and verified by the business owner. Through the program, more than 1,850 high-quality images added by the DMO which generated 4.3 million organic consumer views in the first month.

Increasing Desirability of Destination Assets

In a world where attention has become a commodity, making a great first impression through high-quality imagery is critical.

Unfortunately, the opportunities for non-branded imagery to appear alongside approved destination content is increased in Google Maps where user-generated photography can be associated with points on the map. By taking ownership of visual representation in Google, destinations are able to identify and, in some cases, remove unflattering assets which diminish the vibrancy of key attractions and businesses. They are also able to maximise the return from expansive catalogues of existing destination assets.

Case Study: Disaster Recovery – Puerto Rico

Following a devastating hurricane in 2018, Puerto Rico needed to kick-start tourism quickly. But their recovery efforts were hampered by a significant number of negative images depicting the aftermath of the disaster.

Utilising content creation and street view capture initiatives, Discover Puerto Rico embarked on a content collection program that covered half of the island and produced more than 1,000 branded assets to upload into Google Maps.

These images have generated more than 14.2 million organic views since August 2018.

Case Study: Significant Scale – Visit San Luis Obispo County California 

After auditing 4,221 Google My Business listings for local stakeholders, Visit SLO Cal and seven regional DMO partners embarked on a massive content creation initiative which covered 146 locations across the county. During the initiative, more than 200 low-quality images were removed from Google and replaced with 3,115 new high-quality images. These photos have been viewed more than 16.5 million times across Google’s products as of August 2020.

Need a hand?

If you’re looking to improve your destination perception, Gate 7 provides a turnkey solution to audit and improve the representation of tourism assets and local businesses in just three months. Our Digital Destination Optimisation program has been successfully implemented in 160 destinations worldwide, optimising in excess of 70,000 Google listings. It’s a smart way to elevate consumer perception of your destination while driving serious value to your local business and tourism communities.