Thanks to its innovative and often fun updates, Google has established itself as the synonym of great innovation. Sometimes, as with many other big industry leaders (think of the recent release of Airbnb experiences), it intimidates even leading experts in the tourism space. Nonetheless, there is always a way to get the most out of its updates.
One example is Google's "Local Guides" feature. But what exactly is Google Local Guides? And most of all, how can tour and activity providers take advantage of this update from a tourism and destination marketing perspective?
Google Local Guides: what is it exactly?
Local Guides is defined by Google as,
"a global community of explorers sharing their discoveries on Google Maps [...] to help others find the best spots in town, make new friends, and unlock exclusive benefits along the way."
Here, Google uses its recognisable inspirational and emotional tone to really emphasise the sense of community they want to build. Essentially, Google is aiming to bring together travelers who are happy to share their enthusiasm through online reviews and visual content.
Thanks to this user-generated content, Google wants to not only to enrich Maps, where you can already contribute by adding information on locations, but develop a network of passionate travelers looking for unusual and authentic local experiences. Don't ever forget that Big G is able to track your position and movements thanks to any smartphone, using the data it gathers to improve its location-based services.
Google understands well the power of online reviews. With an online review system in Local Guides, Big G positions himself as competitor to Yelp Elite and TripAdvisor. Local Guides will also surely aim to contribute to the development of Google Trips, which is based on the same localized data and user information.
How can travelers become local tourist guides?
Google now prides itself on being able to name everyone a "local tourist guide". And to become one, it's actually quite simple: log in with your personal profile on Google's dedicated page, fill in the form, and then start posting your first pictures and reviews. You'll then be able to access "my contributions" at any time on the left-hand panel.
When you upload your first picture and write your first review, Google will assign you an initial score and a starting level. Once you get to Level 3, Google will assign you the "official local tourist guide". At Level 5, the highest, you will be able to meet Big G at one of its summits. In fact, Google plays on a wide range of incentives to keep creating more local guides, from participating in events to earning more storage space in Google Drive.
What can a traveler do with Google Local Guides?
Beside being able to post reviews, a traveler can:
- Review and add pictures of places already listed in Google Maps
- Contribute by adding new places
- Participate in the community (which periodically organizes Meetups all over the world)
- Ethically contribute to the local economy development, thanks to Google's review guidelines.
Why is Google Local Guides valuable for your tour and activity company?
Why should tour and activity companies include Google Local Guides in their marketing efforts? Well, we're talking about a phenomenon that's full of great potential. Saying that, few people have understood its potential at a destination marketing level just yet.
Don't forget that Google is trying to create an alternative service to TripAdvisor, and given Big G's actual marketing power, this might become a new booking source for you soon.
To help you harness the potential of Local Guides and be prepared for what's coming next, here are some tips and suggestions for you as a tour and activity company to get the most out of the platform.
- Use Local Guides to find new trending places. If you are offering tours or activities, this might be a good source of inspiration when planning new offers or renewing current ones. You could also use it to find new interesting partners in your destination.
- Find out who your Local Guides are. Try to understand their interests, their trending consumer behavior, and their habits: they might become your new market niche or even your next online (and offline) influencer.
- Invite the Google Local Guides who have accomplished a badge to try one of your tours. You could ask them for suggestions on how to improve your tour, as well as a (hopefully) positive review on Maps to help your word-of-mouth advertising. The traveler might be a travel blogger who is worth collaborating with longer-term.
- Become a Local Guide. And join the nearest Meetup! If you are the first to contribute pictures and reviews for a new location, it could be a good way to get noticed by other reviewers and gain their trust, especially given your experience (online and offline) as a passionate traveler first and foremost.
What shouldn't you do?
- Directly promote your tour and activity company. Unveiling a commercial interest behind your spontaneous reviews won't help you gain trust or credibility.
- Panic when you read about the Google Local Guides badge... it's absolutely not comparable with a certified professional tourist guide.
Google is changing the way travelers look at their trips. Think not only of Maps, Trips, or Local Guides, but also Google Earth VT and the possibilities of Virtual Augmented Reality ("VR").
One day, a traveler's smartphone might suggest their nearest next tour or activity with a push notification from Maps. But always remember: the human side – which you can always develop with your team – won't find a replacement in tech anytime soon.
Stay up-to-date with the latest news and keep your mind open to new opportunities, especially those offered by technology. That way you'll retain a positive outlook in an ever-changing industry that is growing, in many respects, thanks to you.
Curious what 2017 will see for the industry? Get your free copy of our new Travel Trend Report now:
Did you enjoy this article? How do you predict Google will impact the tour and activity industry? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by M. Giulia Biagiotti
Thanks to an international professional work experience in Paris, Dublin, Valencia and Interlaken in Marketing and Sales, Giulia is specialised in Digital Marketing and Inbound Strategy approach, from SEO optimization to content creation to social media management. Giulia is also our former Italian Content Manager at TrekkSoft. Reach out to her on social media to say hi!