Q2 2020 will be one for the history books: As COVID-19 began to spread outside of APAC and Europe, travel around the globe came to a screeching halt and with that, we saw demand tumble to a low of over 80% down year-over-year.
The travel sector was quick to respond and adapt to the rapidly changing landscape. Metasearch publishers, in particular, offered new features and tools to help suppliers continue to reach customers.
Because of these initiatives, in part, large strides were made in demand recovery and by the end of the quarter, weekly demand levels were down ~45% YoY.
Early on in Q2, Google made a major change to its metasearch offering by removing the minimum bid thresholds to appear in the auction. This was a huge benefit for the advertisers that remained live, and they were rewarded with historic return levels. The change was initially slated to run through July 1st but was extended through August 3rd. Google has announced that the minimum bid floor will be phased back in starting on August 3rd.
Aside from the decline in hotel demand, one of the biggest challenges that travelers and travel providers faced in Q2 was trip cancellations. As consumer confidence in future travel waned, cancellation policies played a more important role in booking decisions. Because of this, Google introduced a “Free cancellation” filter in the hotel search UI to showcase properties that offered a free cancellation policy.
In addition to this consumer-friendly change, Google also began offering an additional layer of protection against cancellations for advertisers via a pay-per-stay program. This commission model only charges advertisers for bookings that result in a completed stay, which allows the advertisers to remain within the auction without the fear of revenue loss from future cancellations.
Google also completed the rollout of its sponsored listing feature in Q2. Property Promotion Ads, formerly known as Google Promoted Hotels, were made available to all advertisers after wrapping a successful trial program. Property Promotion Ads are a powerful tool for advertisers looking to gain incremental bookings.
Tripadvisor also offered advertisers a level of cancellation protection by rolling out its own pay-per-stay commission structure. Similarly, this allows auction participants to only pay for consumed reservations.
The publisher also added extra value for travel-wary consumers by adding both “free cancellation” and “properties taking safety measure” filters to the interface.
The popular Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements product was enhanced in Q2 when it shifted to a format where advertisers only pay for external clicks. Internal clicks include clicks to the property image, property name, or reviews, while an external click is on the price or View Deal button and results in the user leaving the Tripadvisor site. In addition, Tripadvisor updated the Sponsored Placement ads to be exclusive to the hotelier when they are the winning advertiser rather than showing additional rates from OTAs.
Trivago has included a “value indicator” feature in its UI. According to the site, the value score takes into account “availability, past prices, similar stays, and more” to assign one of four values to the winning bid-offer: okay value, average value, great value, or excellent value.
Similar to other publishers, trivago also includes a callout on searches with links providing more information about travel restrictions due to COVID-19.
Trivago made the announcement in Q2 that they will also be introducing a CPA model, which is expected to be similar to the Tripadvisor and Google commission formats. This feature is tentatively set to launch in August.
Kayak launched a resource page in Q2 with detailed information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on all areas of travel from hotels and flights to rental cars and safety policies. This helpful site includes up-to-date information on travel restrictions both globally and a detailed state-by-state guide for the U.S.
As with the other publishers, Kayak also offers a “free cancellation” filter as well as important travel information links for destination-level searches.
These are just a few of the highlights in metasearch publisher updates from this past quarter. The common thread that connects them is a commitment to removing barriers to both advertising and traveling during COVID-19.
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