Launched about a year ago, TripAdvisor redesigned its Tingo hotel site and it is now handing out hotel upgrades to customers as an alternative to refunds when the room rate drops.

Tingo’s redesigned homepage also has much more of a deal feel to it than the original one as Tingo is now emphasizing “hot getaways” to Mexico for “up to 47% off,” and “Magic Orlando Deals” for “up to 40% off,” for example.

And, the original tagline, “Take the gamble out of booking,” has given way on the home page to a new one, “Best Prices. Free Upgrades. Money Back.”  The site is also clearly labeled “A TripAdvisor Company,” something that was absent at launch in March 2012.

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The initial premise of the site remains: You book a hotel room when you see the designation, “Money Back room,” and then Tingo automatically rebooks the room for you after each price drop, and refunds your credit card the difference a few days after checkout.

However, Tingo is now also emphasizing a new upgrade service, and that could appeal to travelers and hotels, as well.

Tingo states: “Free Upgrades:  We’re always looking out for you. After you book, we’ll let you know if prices change on other rooms in your hotel and you can trade up for free.”

Travelers then get to choose whether they want a better room for the same rate as their initial reservation, and hotels wouldn’t have to sacrifice the rate-drop revenue — and deal with a bunch of cancelled and new reservations carried out by TripAdvisor on the guests’ behalf.

The new Tingo is emulating some of Booking.com’s highly successful marketing tactics, as are many other online travel agencies.

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For example, Tingo’s hotel listings are peppered with verbiage such as “Free cancellation,” and “Hurry, only 2 rooms left!”

Some of Tingo’s marketing tactics are dubious, however.

For instance, Tingo’s initial display page for the El Cid Castilla Beach Hotel in Mazatlan, Mexico, says From $368 $68, “Sale! Save 60% on this Stay” for a balcony with pool-view room that comes with a king or two double beds, March 16-18.

When you click over to get the room details, it says $171 $68. The first display leads you to believe that the initial rate was $368, and now Tingo is informing you the rate dropped from $171 to $68. The initial citing of $368 seems like a bait and switch.

Meanwhile, the $68 sale isn’t necessarily special because you can book the same room for the identical $68 on Travelocity and Expedia (where Tingo sources its hotels), as well.

Tingo also informs you that “this hotel’s prices dropped 28 times in 30 days. Prices dropped an average of $90.00.”

We know what Tingo means, but if you take the wording literally, then the rate 30 days ago would have been $2,588.

Now, that would have been a real price drop.

Photo Credit: Tingo's redesigned homepage includes a new tagline with "free upgrades" as part of its services. Tingo