Travel recommendation and booking site Tripadvisor is launching several tools to help local and small businesses weather the coronavirus storm, as well as donating up to $1 million to COVID-19 relief efforts focused on the travel industry decimated by the crisis.
Unlike the airline industry, which is set to receive more than $50 billion in a government bailout, Tripadvisor’s partners across the travel ecosystem—from the hole-in-the-wall rib joint to Hilton’s all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean—are not likely to get the same preferential treatment.
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,” 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 users will be able to search through Gift Card and Takeout tags.
Of the $1 million set aside for aid, $150,000 will go to World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by chef Jose Andres that provides meals in the wake of natural disasters, and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, which 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.
Nelson also said that the brand is working to match healthcare workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus with its hotel members. Tripadvisor 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,” Nelson said.
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,” Nelson said. “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 joined Tripadvisor in November of 2018, and since then the brand has increasingly rolled out new products in anticipation of a rebrand slated for this spring. While it’s still expecting to launch the new homepage, an out-of-home campaign set for transportation hubs across the U.S. 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,” Nelson said. “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?”