TripAdvisor is offering free-advertising listings for three months to hotels, B&Bs, inns and vacation rental properties along the coastal region affected by the Gulf oil spill.
The offer is good for existing and new lodging advertisers located in the coastal region from New Orleans, La., to St. George Island, Fla., within 10 miles of shore, TripAdvisor says.
Owners of hotels, B&Bs and inns in the target region which do not currently participate in TripAdvisor's Business Listings are eligible for three months of free listings. Properties currently using Business Listings will get a three-month extension to their contracts for free.
Business Listings enable properties to prominently list their contact information within their TripAdvisor profiles. Previously, there were not direct links to the hotels in their profiles.
TripAdvisor is making a similar offer to owners of vacation-rental properties. Nonadvertisers will get free three-month listings in Vacation Rentals, and existing advertisers will get free, three-month extensions to their contracts.
Annual rates for Business Listings go for $600 -- currently there is a $420 promo -- for properties with 10 or fewer rooms.
The annual subscription rate for a hotel with 51-100 rooms in $3,000.
"We're taking this action now to provide some relief to help these businesses through what could become challenging times ahead, and as a trusted travel resource, we are equally committed to offering travelers the freshest and most accurate information from other travelers, as well as destination marketing organizations," says Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business.
While the TripAdvisor move is laudable, cynics might wonder why the program is relegated to TripAdvisor's new listings' businesses -- which are on the prowl for new enrollees.
Why didn't TripAdvisor extend the three months of free ads to text and banner advertisers across the TripAdvisor Media Network, as well?
Part of pubic company Expedia Inc., the latter option might have involved a much larger financial hit.
Responding to that question, TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter says: "We looked for the quickest way to offer help, and extending free Business Listings and Vacation Rentals services made the most sense for several reasons: It is support that we can offer fairly rapidly and it helps a large number of existing partners.
"Additionally, consumers are eager for information about the oil spill and, in addition to the reviews and opinions they find on our site, these services help them connect directly with hospitality businesses to learn more details about the situation as it unfolds. In turn, hospitality businesses rely on these tools to reach potential customers. Nevertheless, we will continue to monitor the situation to see if and how TripAdvisor can provide further assistance."
TripAdvisor says one measure of the impact of the oil spill on tourism can be obtained through TripAdvisor's page view metrics.
Through the first 20 days in May, year-over year page-view activity decreased 8% to 40% in some of the affected areas, TripAdvisor states.
However, page view activity on TripAdvisor tied to the New Orleans and Gulfport areas increased 12% and 10%, respectively, compared with the first 20 days of May in 2009, TripAdvisor says.
New partner hotels, B&Bs and inns which are eligible for the free Business Listings can call (866) 322-5942 for more information. Vacation rental owners new to Vacation Rentals can call (877) 354-7539.
Here are some additional details.
TripAdvisor says it will contact existing customers directly to provide additional information about free listings for properties in the designated area.