While Airbnb is issuing $17 million in grants to some super hosts, and Google, Expedia Group, Trip.com Group and Tripadvisor are offering various forms of advertising or marketing credits, loans or financial relief to partners, Booking Holdings is a holdout and isn’t mounting a financial recovery effort.
Booking Holdings, which includes brands such as Booking.com, Priceline and Agoda, has chosen to forego taking the financial relief route and instead is working on recovery toolkits for partners, sharing data to entice bookings, and is rolling out consumer incentives to generate demand, according to spokeswoman Leslie Cafferty.
Cafferty argued that some of these measures can have a longer-term impact than offering partners a one-time payment.
Some of these travel industry relief efforts — particularly Airbnb and Google’s programs — have found themselves in the line of fire.
AIRBNB’S SUPER HOST RELIEF GRANTS
Airbnb has a $17 million grant program for super hosts, but many have complained that the criteria for qualifying have been opaque, and they haven’t even received a grant application, let alone any payments. To apply, super hosts must first receive an application from Airbnb.
In mid-May, Airbnb stated that it handed out $7.4 million in grants to 4,000 super hosts, and that qualifying super hosts would receive the remaining $9.6 million, in payments ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, by the end of June.
It should be pointed out that among the various travel industry relief programs for partners, Airbnb’s is the only one we found that is actually handing out money that doesn’t need to be repaid. Facebook has a small business grant and advertising credit program, as well.
But that $250 million came only after Airbnb earlier decided to refund guests for cancellations without compensating hosts. Through the end of March, Booking Holdings paid around $63 million in refunds.
So these weren’t recovery programs, per se, but were part of cancellation refunds paid to consumers or property owners.
GOOGLE’S CREDITS CAPPED AT $1,000
Google is handing out $340 million advertising credits for future campaigns to small- and medium-size businesses, not just in travel, and the search engine caps the credits at $1,000. The program, which took weeks to roll out because Google had to build the technology for it, has come under fire from German and French travel companies for not offering refunds on millions of dollars in advertising spending that didn’t lead to bookings because of the pandemic.
The Google program has stringent requirements: For example, partners had to advertise in Google in at least 10 months in 2019, and January and/or February 2020.
EXPEDIA PROVIDES CREDITS TOWARD FUTURE CAMPAIGNS
Expedia Group debuted an estimated $275 million relief program for partners that is mostly in the form of advertising and marketing credits for future campaigns. Expedia’s program is geared to provide credits up to 25 percent of partners’ 2019 advertising spend for upcoming marketing campaigns; credits would range from $200 to $100,000.
TRIP.COM GROUP LOAN PROGRAM
In the first quarter, which ended March 31, China’s Trip.com Group paid customers around $1.2 billion in refunds, a move mandated by the Chinese government.
Trip.com Group’s financing arm also provided 17,000 loans worth about $1.4 billion to small businesses as of the end of May.
TRIPADVISOR PROVIDED RELIEF TO RESTAURANTS AND HOTELS
Tripadvisor hasn’t publicly disclosed a dollar value on a relief program for its restaurant and hotel partners.
But Tripadvisor Chief Financial Officer Ernst Teunissen said in May that the company was “pushing out,” meaning delaying, some partner payment requirements.
The company also provided free subscription services for a couple of months to restaurant and hotel partners during the height of the pandemic, and subsidized some partner advertising placements in coronavirus-impacted markets, a spokesperson said.
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