Google is introducing a new feature that shows which hotels have special rates and policies for frontline workers dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. The feature is another example of how technology companies are adapting their products to capitalize on the new landscape ushered in by the global pandemic.
Tourism has been one of the sectors most impacted by COVID-19, with hotels and holiday apartments largely sitting empty as people hunkered in lockdown. As such, many hotel chains have been offering their rooms for free or at massively discounted rates to doctors, nurses, and others working at the COVID-19 coalface, partly to support social distancing measures and partly to help fronline workers live closer to their place of work.
Knowing which hotels have free or discounted rooms isn’t always easy to establish though, which is why Google Maps and Google Search will now surface hotels with COVID-19 specific policies.
Anyone searching for “hotels for frontline workers in London,” for example, will now see results relevant to that enquiry. Or simply searching for “hotels in London” can then be filtered with a new “COVID-19 responder rooms” option.
For this initiative, Google said that it’s working with a range of partners, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and Hilton, to get a direct funnel into which hotels are offering special accommodation. Although the program is limited to the U.S. and U.K. at first, Google said that it planned to expand it globally soon.
Google has launched a bunch of new tools and features in response to the COVID-19 crisis, including allowing advertisers to promote curbside pickups in their online listings, while it’s also now showing COVID-19 testing centers in search results.
Elsewhere, many technology companies adversely impacted by the pandemic have had to adapt accordingly. Uber, for example, is investing more heavily in its food delivery business, while also betting on micromobility services such as electric scooters as cities transform their streets to suit pedestrians and other forms of clean personal transport that promote social distancing.