The real value of Google+ to the tourism industry may finally be coming to the fore thanks to research published last month.

Google’s social media platform is set to celebrate its second birthday in late June, and although it has suffered from being much-maligned in the UK and United States, it officially became the second biggest social networking website in the world in January this year having surpassed Twitter.

The impact of this growth on tourism is not lost, with eMarketer publishing research in May showing that Google+ is now one of the most popular travel planning social media tools, second only to Facebook.

Google integrates content such as photos from travellers, customer reviews from Zagat and travel brands in to the right hand side of search results pages, generating the likes of the Places of Interest content often seen when doing a destination search (below).

What isn’t abundantly clear, is that all of this information is coming from Google+, and so whether users realise it or not, they are using Google+ and its content, meaning that there is an increasing importance for destinations to consider using the tool.

Moreover, statistics show that internet users planning travel are now intentionally visiting Google+ profile pages for destinations, attractions and travel groups to plan their travel.

A survey of more than 15,000 travellers conducted by TripAdvisor in January of this year demonstrated the emergence of Google+ as a travel research and planning tool.  Of those surveyed who had used social media to help plan their most recent trip, 40% had used Google+ as a planning tool. 

Facebook remained ahead with 76% of those travellers having used it for planning, but Twitter was left flagging well behind on 21%.  Further back were Flickr (7%) and Pinterest (6%), both used sparingly for this purpose.

Furthermore, 22% of those surveyed credited Google+ as being the most useful social network for travel panning.

Despite this research, many marketers will remain sceptical over the popularity of Google+ as a social network.  Indeed, even Google itself admits that they consider it to be a “social layer”, working to enhance many of the company’s other online properties and functions, unlike the more conventional social networks which are generally accessed through a single portal or website.

Figures show it has only 6% of internet users in the US are active Google+ users, and only 7% in the UK.  However, for a destination that is looking to market to Asia, the Middle East or parts of central and southern America, Google+ could be a key tool to invest time in.

Figures show that 39% of internet users in Thailand are active Google+ users, while India (38%), Saudi Arabia (38%) and Indonesia (37%) also have high percentages of internet users active on the platform.  Furthermore, China, Mexico, South Africa and Argentina also have high proportions of internet users classed as active on Google+.

However, by continuing to drive its content in to Google searches in the fashion outlined above, Google+ is likely to continue its growth.

Source: eMarketer

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