AI vs. Google Search: Is Your Website Traffic Taking a Hit?

Gartner predicts that users will seek answers from generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Gemini rather than Google Search.

AI vs. Google Search: Is Your Website Traffic Taking a Hit?

The hospitality industry thrives on providing exceptional experiences, and a vital element of that experience starts online. Potential guests often begin their journey with a simple search: "Best family hotels near [destination]?" or "Luxury beachfront resorts in [location]?" Traditionally, this has led them straight to hotel websites, where they can explore offerings, book rooms, and get a feel for your unique property.

However, the search landscape is evolving rapidly. The rise of AI assistants like Gemini, ChatGPT, and others is changing how users interact with search engines. These powerful tools increasingly provide answers directly within the chat results – sometimes eliminating the need to visit external websites altogether. As we speak to our hotel customers, the trend has some concerned about a potential decline in organic search traffic, a critical source of bookings and revenue.

Is the AI Boom Stealing Your Hotel's Guests?

While AI plays a role in search, it's essential to understand how it might specifically impact the hospitality industry. 

AI assistants are often adept at handling basic informational queries. For instance, a guest might ask, "What are the amenities at the Ocean Breeze Resort?" AI could potentially answer with a list directly in the chat results, bypassing your website. Gartner predicts that users will seek answers from generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Gemini rather than Google Search.

However, it's not all doom and gloom! Here's the good news: Hotels still have a significant advantage. AI might provide basic information, but it can't replicate the depth and richness of a well-designed hotel website. Travelers booking a hotel typically look for more than dry facts. They want to be transported – to envision themselves relaxing by the pool or enjoying a romantic dinner on the balcony. A user-friendly website with captivating visuals, compelling storytelling, and virtual tours can create an emotional connection that AI simply can't match.

On top of this, Google's algorithm prioritizes E-E-A-T – Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. High-quality content showcasing your hotel's unique offerings, awards, and positive guest reviews will always be highly valued by search engines. So, while AI might be good at answering one-off questions, it struggles with complex, long-tail queries. Targeting these niche searches can help you attract highly qualified leads that are more likely to convert into paying guests.

Preparing Your Hotel Website for the AI Age

While AI offers users convenience, hotels should proactively adapt their digital marketing strategy. Here are some tips:

  • Content is King: Invest in creating engaging, informative content that goes beyond basic room descriptions. Highlight your hotel's unique selling points, local attractions, and the overall guest experience.
  • Optimize for Search Engines: Ensure your website is structured correctly and uses relevant keywords to improve discoverability in search engine results.
  • Embrace Structured Data: Structured data helps search engines like Google better understand your content and offerings. This can lead to richer search results and increased click-through rates.
  • Build Your Brand: Create a solid online presence that resonates with your target audience. Use social media, email, and influencer partnerships to drive traffic directly to your website.
  • Create Social Media Landing Pages: Your hotel’s social media ‘post to conversion rate’ can dramatically improve when you create custom landing pages to support your social posts. Hotels should consider using a service like Lodging Interactive’s Commingle360 (shameless plug). 
  • Embrace AI as a Tool: Instead of fearing AI, explore ways to leverage it. Consider integrating a chatbot on your website to answer basic guest inquiries and improve user experience.
  • Focus on Your Website's Value: Remember, your website is your digital storefront. Make it visually appealing, easy to navigate, and offer valuable resources and booking incentives to encourage visitors to explore and convert.

The rise of AI assistants is undoubtedly changing the search landscape. However, the impact doesn’t need to be harmful for hotels prioritizing high-quality content, user experience, and a solid digital marketing strategy. By adapting and optimizing your website, you can ensure your hotel remains a top destination for discerning travelers, regardless of how they initiate their search.

Hospitality AI Trends to Consider

While predicting the exact trajectory of AI and search is impossible, the general direction is clear. Search engines are moving towards a more conversational, AI-powered experience.  The hospitality industry will require a long-term commitment to adapting to fundamental changes such as exceptional guest experiences, compelling content, and a user-centric online presence.

Here are some key trends and predictions to bear in mind:

  • Visual Search Will Rise: Image and video-based search are increasingly important. Google Lens and similar tools already allow users to search based on a photo or a screenshot. Hotels should ensure their websites include high-quality visuals and prepare for a future where guests can 'search' for a hotel with a photo exemplifying their desired aesthetic or location.
  • Voice Search Dominance: Studies indicate phenomenal growth in the use of voice search, particularly with smart speakers. According to a report by Juniper Research, voice-based smart speaker use was predicted to reach 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023.
  • The Battle Against 'Zero-Click' Results: AI-powered answers on search result pages mean users might not need to click through to a website. As mentioned above, Google insists they still value high-quality content, but hotels must proactively demonstrate their unique value to search engines.
  • Hyper-Personalization: AI will allow for much more customized search results. Hospitality businesses must explore ways to provide personalized experiences and build engagement and trust on their websites and digital presence to cater to guests' needs.

At the end of the day, the evolution of search doesn't diminish the fundamental importance of delivering stellar hospitality experiences. Those who put the guest at the center of their online and in-person strategies will remain resilient and thrive in this ever-changing digital landscape.

About Lodging Interactive

Since its founding in 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided digital marketing services to hotels worldwide, including select service, full-service, and luxury properties.

The Company's social media marketing and guest reviews response division, CoMMingle:Engage, serves a range of hospitality businesses, including hotels, restaurants, spas, and management companies.

Additionally, the Company provides subscription-based website development and digital marketing services. The subscription-based service is based on a 'pay-as-you-go' model and requires little upfront investment on the part of the hotel.

Lodging Interactive has received numerous awards, including the HSMAI Adrian Award and accolades from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly's Magellan Awards.

For more information, email, call 877-291-4411 ext. 704, or visit the company's website.


DJ Vallauri
President & Founder
Phone: 877-291-4411 ext 704