Expedia Group, the online booking conglomerate that owns the travel agencies Expedia, Hotwire.com, Orbitz and Travelocity, has announced a $25 million initiative aimed at leveraging the brand’s media and advertising platform to help travel-related business weather the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Announced today, the initiative will see Expedia match a portion of ads placed by destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and other travel businesses, up to $25 million. That money will come from a previously announced $275 million commitment to support the travel industry, which has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus.
“Destinations are a key element [of recovery],” said Wendy Olson Killion, Expedia’s vice president of business development. “We are coming to the table with $25 million of value to extend campaigns. Based on different tiers, we’re able to provide a considerable match on a campaign.”
For example, a DMO spending $100,000 on a campaign with Expedia’s advertising platform (which marks its 20th anniversary this year, a rough time for a celebration) will get a percentage of that spend in additional paid social across Expedia-owned channels and brands.
Although Olson Killion declined to provide specifics on the tiers of matching funds, she said the offer was available to everyone from the “smallest city players” to state and national tourism bureaus. Participants so far include the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Destination Canada and Los Cabos, Mexico.
Other initiatives include Expedia covering the cost of a coupon or discount across its brands like Hotels.com, which can be used by travelers to book a stay. Another will let Expedia, on behalf of the DMOs, target curious travelers through email.
DMOs have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic, as they’re often funded through local taxes. Most weren’t eligible for the Cares Act because of their specific nonprofit designation.
These companies are vital for generating interest in destinations, which then trickles down to hotels, airlines and eventually local merchants. Several weeks ago, Airbnb announced a partnership with select DMOs, both domestic and international, including Visit Florida, Discover Puerto Rico and the Bermuda Tourism Authority. That deal would see DMOs using Airbnb’s platform for insights, with the vacation rental site granting access to its internal data.
Expedia’s pitch is also contingent on its own data, which it provides to potential partners free of charge, including search, market and booking information, getting as granular as specific customer transportation preferences—whether a traveler is taking a plane or driving to a destination.
“We use this data to design a plan, they provide us with their budget, and we see how we can maximize that,” Olson Killion said. “This isn’t a discount program. Based on that spend level, they will get a match component, and that goes from 20% up to over a 100% of the value of that partnership.”
Budgets worth more than $1 million will see a match that leans “much more” toward 100%, Olson Killion said.
Expedia will soon resume its own marketing, and is planning to incorporate its DMO and travel partners through television and digital advertisements, according to Olson Killion.
Most importantly, the offer is good through January 2021 and could be extended, and available to brands and organizations that haven’t worked with Expedia previously.
“The reality is that we are seeing a second wave [of Covid-19],” said Hari Nair, svp of Expedia Group Media Solutions. “If we have to adjust some of the dates in the future, then we are obviously going to do the right thing.”
While travel remains near historic lows—Expedia lost 39% of its bookings and revenue decreased 15% in the first quarter of 2020—the industry is beginning to see a slow climb toward recovery. Airbnb and Vrbo (which is owned by Expedia) have seen bookings rise in recent weeks, with airlines noticing a similar (though small) uptick.
“There may not be as many travelers as there were in January, but we are seeing that pick up,” Olson Killion said.