Google Trends provides weekly information about internet searches with advanced features freely available at http://www.google.com/insights/search/.
Users can view and download search volume patterns for 1 or more search terms, and this information is also available broken down by the location of those making the search and by the category that the search relates to (for example, travel in general, accommodation or air transport in particular). There is also information about the top and rising searches that include the search term (and category, if used).
The information from Google Trends is extremely up to date as it provides weekly figures for a period up to and including the current (even incomplete) week.
The availability of data from 2004 onwards allows a time series to be built up relating to particular search terms.
Because of the timeliness of Google Trends, there has been a range of studies that examine how the data can be used to monitor economic trends as they happen, described as “nowcasting” in some papers.
This avoids the time lag that is a feature of official statistical releases.
As part of these pages, we provide a summary of some of these studies and, in particular, highlight the findings that are of particular relevance to tourism.
Our main focus is on the potential for Google Trends to provide information about visitor behaviour at the local or destination level where it is not captured by existing surveys.
We include an introduction to Google Trends coupled with an explanation of its potential pitfalls and other caveats.
We then compare patterns of search data from Google Trends with visitor statistics from some of the UK surveys related to tourism that do include local information, providing a justification for the possible use of Google Trends for local- and destination-level tourism organisations.
The core of this work, therefore, presents examples of the use of Google Trends in providing insight into the characteristics of potential visitors to destinations and how they search for information about particular locations.