*EMBARGOED UNTIL MIDNIGHT TONIGHT*
Travel recommendation and booking site Tripadvisor announced on Tuesday that it is enacting several tools to help local and small business weather the coronavirus storm, as well as donating up to $1 million to COVID-19 relief efforts focused on the travel industry, which has been decimated by the crisis.
Unlike the airline industry, set to receive more than $50 billion in bailouts, Tripadvisor’s partners makeup every other corner of the travel ecosystem, from the hole-in-the-wall rib joint and Hilton’s all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, which are all hurting equally.
To”stop the bleeding,” the company—which averaged about 400 million monthly visitors to its platform in 2019—announced that it would now let visitors to the site purchase gift cards and takeout from their favorite neighborhood restaurants directly through Tripadvisor. That’s crucial, as restaurants represent more than half of the hotels, resorts, and activities available to be reviewed on the site.
“We tried to make it as easy as possible for the general population to help out and then for business owners to be able to take advantage of all these capabilities,” said Lindsay Nelson, Tripadvisor’s chief experience and brand officer, told Adweek. “It’s all hands on deck, how do we drive impact right now?”
Although figures are still unclear, a Tripadvisor spokesperson confirmed that at least 10,000 “mom and pop” restaurants will be listed on the site and that users will be able to search through a “gift card” and “takeout” tag. They won’t be given preference over chain restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesdays.
Of the $1 million set aside for aid, $150,000 will be set aside for the World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides meals in the wake of natural disasters, and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, a foundation that provides financial support to restaurant owners and workers.
In a matching campaign, Tripadvisor will match $1 for every post that includes the tag #LoveYourLocal on social media up to $150,000. The brand will share the campaign across its own social channels and its own platforms.
Nelson also said that the brand could match healthcare workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus with its hotel members. The travel brand ran a trial in the U.K. between the National Health Service and select hotels and the brand is seeing if it can expand the program globally.
“We can play matchmaker between people needing hotel rooms and hotels that are able to take relief workers. That’s a different way we can show up and we can show up quickly,” said Nelson.
Additionally, Nelson sees Tripadvisor playing a role in the global recovery effort, rebooting local and international tourism through partnerships with destination marketing organizations and tourism authorities.
“Regardless of what the crisis is, the fear lingers longer than the threat,” said Nelson. “That’s what drives the devastation to continue in so many places. We can’t control coronavirus but we can control the dissemination of information that can abate the discomfort and fear.”
Nelson was brought onboard Tripadvisor in November of 2018 and since then the brand has increasingly rolled out new products in anticipation of rebrand, slated for this Spring. While the brand is still expecting to launch its new homepage, an out-of-home campaign set for transportation hubs across the United States has been moved to the Summer, for obvious reasons.
A paid service that matched Tripadvisor users with professional trip designers has also been shelved but may be retooled to focus attention on economic relief at the local level.
“We’re aggressively trying to figure out whether there’s a local lens that we could build very quickly,” said Nelson. “As soon as restaurants and bars, museums and community theaters are available to the public, how do we drive as much local activity and local discovery?”