Lobbying group EU Travel Tech has thrown its support behind a plea to Facebook and Google to help the French tourism sector.
In an open letter to the two U.S. giants (in French), signed by 20 France-based operators, agents and organizations, the companies say Facebook and Google have participated in the returns but have so far not been prepared to share the pain brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
EU Travel Tech, which counts a string of major online travel agencies and the global distribution systems as members, describes the “call for action” from the French travel sector as a legitimate one.
It says in a statement: “It’s about time to set up a policy framework that restores a competitive and fair online travel market. EU Travel Tech has longstanding concerns about Google’s practices of leveraging on its dominance in the online search market to give self-preference and prominent display to its own products at the expense of rival services, making travel Google’s biggest vertical in terms of ad revenue.”
In the open letter to Facebook and Google, signatories from companies including Evaneos, HomeExchange, Maeva and MisterFly, say they have always been promised a return on investment on their advertising on the platforms but have received no revenue from their investments between January and mid-March.
The letter calls for the U.S. platforms to either cancel payments for already billed campaigns or suggest some form of repayment.
It also asks for future marketing campaigns in 2020 and 2021 to be discounted.
The signatories point out that the companies derive 80% of their revenue from advertising with the tourism industry representing between 10 and 15% of that.
EU Travel Tech adds: “The long-term impact of such abuse on consumers and competition in travel is a major worry, resulting in less choice and higher prices for consumers. We see a real opportunity at EU level to sort this through regulatory action, in particular in the upcoming Digital Services Act.”
It is not the first time that various elements from the travel sector have called on Google for help.
A petition, started by Arival on behalf of the tours and activities segment in March, called on Facebook and Google to credit providers for advertising spend on their platforms between mid-January and mid-March.
Facebook promised $100 million to help small businesses, while in late March Google promised $340 million in ad credits for small and medium sized businesses.
Many, including outdoor accommodation OTA Pitchup, voiced concern that this would not be enough for their businesses to survive.
Dan Yates, the company’s founder said at the time: “It’s good news that Google Ads has now brought forward a scheme for advertisers, intended ‘to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with customers’ arising from coronavirus. However, given the brutal impact of this crisis on most sectors, the scale of this scheme is disappointing to say the least."
More recently German travel startups, including GetYourGuide, Trivago and Omio, asked Google for easier terms on advertising payments.
A Google spokesperson says:
"Our travel partners are facing unprecedented challenges and we’re working with partners to help protect their businesses, including assisting them with search insights, as well as surfacing their cancellation policies in our travel products and, for all hotel ads partners globally, using our “pay per stay” feature to shift the cancellation risk from our partners to us."
Phocuswire has contacted Facebook and for a response.