In pre-pandemic times, travelers turned to review sites to discover where they could find the best brunch, the comfiest hotel beds or the cutest locally made tchotchkes.
Popular sites for reviews, guidance and travel booking have adapted, adding covid-19 details so users can make decisions based on safety measures as well as feedback from fellow customers.
Here’s how four sites — Google, Tripadvisor, Yelp and Expedia — have changed, starting last year and continuing until the present day as the pandemic evolves.
When searching for flights and hotels on the search engine, Google will include information about advisories or restrictions about the destination. Results will also show the percentage of flights operating and the hotels that have availability. As of earlier this year, travel advisories that appear during the search process also include immunization requirements for a destination and allow users to opt in for updates if that travel guidance changes.
In Google Maps, in addition to getting directions and finding businesses in an area, a “covid layer” tool provides information about how covid-19 cases are trending in the area. Safety precautions in place at local businesses are also provided, as well as coronavirus-related alerts for driving and taking public transportation.
The company’s “Travel Safe” tools launched in June 2020 to allow hotel and restaurant owners to share their safety measures, including requirements on mask-wearing and social distancing. Consumers can use a search filter to find businesses that include those precautions.
“As travel restrictions ease, hospitality businesses must recognize the changing expectations from consumers around safety and cleanliness,” chief commercial officer Kanika Soni said in a statement last year. “That is why Travel Safe will be such a vital tool. It will provide consumers with the information and reassurance they need when they travel, while allowing businesses to build trust by highlighting the concrete steps they are taking to keep their customers safe.”
New this year, businesses can also include whether their employees are fully vaccinated, if proof of vaccination is required for guests and if masks are required for customers who are not fully vaccinated.
The company will also take down reviews if users target businesses for abiding by local vaccination or mask rules.
The booking site’s “Covid-19 Travel Advisor” lets travelers enter the location they are departing from and where they want to go, as well as their vaccination status, to find out the restrictions and advisories relevant to their trip.
The site also includes a hub with checklists, guidelines and what to expect during all types of trips — as well as ways to change or cancel bookings or track a refund.
Expedia says thousands of hotels have submitted information on their cleaning and safety procedures, as well as details about what amenities or services might have changed because of the pandemic. People looking for hotels can use a filter to find those that list “enhanced cleaning” processes.
When searching for flights, users can also compare cleaning and safety practices for specific flights and airlines.
On Yelp pages, users can look under the “amenities and more” or “more info” sections to find safety measures such as mask requirements or vaccine mandates for staff or customers. Customers can also filter their searches by business attributes such as proof of vaccination requirement and fully vaccinated staff. More than 70,000 businesses have added those attributes to their Yelp pages in the United States and Canada.
People who want to eat out — but not necessarily in a tightly packed indoor setting — can also check to see if restaurants have covered or heated seating outdoors, private dining, or takeout. The Yelp Waitlist option allows people to join a virtual list and wait remotely with real-time updates on when their table will be ready.
“Throughout the pandemic, Yelp has quickly pivoted to give business owners a platform to help communicate how they’re operating and, in turn, give consumers the information they need to discover great local businesses,” the company’s trend expert, Tara Lewis, said in a statement.
Some companies that require proof of vaccination have been subject to backlash from users, or “review bombing,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Yelp is monitoring the pages of businesses that include vaccine-related attributes and will alert unusual activity and remove reviews that violate its policies. So far this year, the company has placed 200 alerts related to coronavirus precautions and removed more than 8,300 reviews.
Coronavirus: What you need to know
Where do things stand? See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.
The state of public health: Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid.
Grief and the pandemic: A Washington Post reporter covered the coronavirus — and then endured the death of her mother from covid-19. She offers a window into grief and resilience.
Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?
Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.
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