As we move into the end of the year, we are continuing to share emerging trends that have appeared or persisted since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. People continue to turn to Google Search to better understand the new normal and what it means for their travel plans. The following are recent search trends we have noticed, along with their implications for travel marketers.
Socially Distant Fall Activities Gaining Popularity
There has been a recent revival around certain fall activities. For example, apple picking has seen a drastic resurgence in popularity as people continue to search for fun, socially-distant activities. Searches for “picking near me” and for “orchard near me” have both grown globally by over 100% year over year4. Within the United States, search interest for these activities is particularly high in New England relative to the rest of the country. Searches for “patch near me,” which includes places like pumpkin patches and flower patches, have also grown globally by over 100% year over year. For travel marketers, there is one key takeaway to note: travelers are showing a sustained interest in outdoor destinations and activities. This means that it remains crucial to continue to invest in coverage beyond urban hubs.
Winter Sports Destinations Experiencing an Increase in Searches
Searches related to “winter travel destinations” and “ski lodges and resorts” grew 30% year over year and 30% month over month, respectively, while it was still summer. This suggests that travelers were already dreaming about winter escapes months before they were actually set to take place. Moreover, this summer’s search activity gave us a glimpse into what traveler behaviors we could expect moving into the fall and winter. And as the weather grows cooler, we’re observing upticks in searches for destination activities in popular winter locales. For example, in the United States, searches for destination activities in Vail, Eagle County, Colorado grew by over 50% year over year. Additionally, U.S. searches for destination activities in nearby Aspen, Pitkin County, Colorado grew by over 40% year over year3. Both locations are popular for skiing and snowboarding and it is likely that searches across destination activities and vacation rentals for those locations and the surrounding areas will continue to grow in the coming weeks.
In the vacation rentals category, searches for rentals in South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, California have grown in the United States by over 100% year over year3. This indicates a continuing interest in outdoors locations, which also experienced high search activity this past summer.
In our recently announced travel trends update, we added a feature to help people understand the impact of COVID-19 on their destinations. For example, currently 122% of flights to Vail are operating, meaning that there was an increase in the number of flights there from this time last year, despite many planes being grounded nationwide. For Aspen, 85% of flights are operating, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the percentage reaches or surpasses 100% as we move further into the ski season.
The trends that we observed earlier this summer around outdoor activities have persisted and evolved with the seasons. Like before, maintaining and expanding coverage to locations, like ski resorts and apple orchards, is crucial to capture fluctuating demand.
 Google Data, Global English, Jul 29, 2020 – Sep 26, 2020 vs Jul 29, 2019 – Sep 26, 2019
 Google Search Data, U.S., June 14–July 11, 2019 vs. June 14–July 11, 2020.
 Google Search Data, U.S., May 17–June 13, 2020 vs. June 14–July 11, 2020.
 Google Data, U.S. English, Sept 30 2020 – Oct 09, 2020 vs Sept 30 2019 – Oct 09, 2019