Small businesses complain that Google Aid is a gimmick: don’t help and burn money

In late March, Google announced an $800 million package to help companies struggling with the new coronavirus outbreak,media reported. It explicitly provides a total of $340 million in advertising credit lines to small and medium-sized businesses in all industries, and grants end-of-year advertising credits to businesses with active Google advertising accounts. But company bosses say Google’s assistance is a PR stunt and simply not enough to save the tourism industry, “and the money is basically burned out”.

Small businesses complain that Google Aid is a gimmick: don't help and burn money

Walks, a Travel Company based in Austin, Texas, has asked Google for help in developing an ad payment package that takes into account expected declining revenues. The company spends about $1 million a year on advertising.

But no agreement was reached between the two sides. Walks had to lay off more than half of its employees, reducing the team from more than 100 to about 45.

A Google spokesman acknowledged in an email that the tourism industry faced “unprecedented challenges” but declined to discuss specific demands from tourism bosses.

The spokesman said Google’s travel search products were also canceled, noting the company’s expanded pilot program last month to charge hotel advertisers only if guests actually stay.

Douglas Quinby, chief executive of Arival, a travel research firm, said the industry was on the verge of collapse. Mr Queanbeyan said Google’s advertising credit was insignificant for a company with $160bn in annual revenues.

Dan Yates, chief executive of Pitchup, a London-based camping booking company, said setting a targeting of advertising credit to expire at the end of the year meant it would not be used at all. Many travel companies typically advertise seasonal ads in the first and second quarters to drum up business during the spring and autumn seasons, Yates said.

Many bosses are calling on Google to offer rebates on advertising sales, not credit lines. In April, a group of German travel start-ups wrote to Google’s chief commercial officer, Philipp Schindler, asking for more help, including cashback.

Pitchup also uses the company’s cloud hosting service and a range of efficient applications from the search giant GSuite for businesses. Mr. Yates said Google had offered to defer payments, but he said it would not help if the company failed to survive.

In an email, Google declined a customer’s request for a reduction in the amount of money for cloud services. “We strongly recommend that you reduce costs as much as possible, and Google can come up with another solution. A spokesman said in an email.