Will The Real TripAdvisor Please Stand Up?

HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Council recently took a fresh look at TripAdvisor which is trying to move from being simply a review site to becoming a robust booking site.  TripAdvisor has been changing their model and rumors are flying about the possibility of them being acquired. 

Council members have heard questions from GMs and Directors of Sales & Marketing: “When is TripAdvisor going away?” and “When can we stop responding to reviews?” The answer to both is: “Not in the foreseeable future.” And, here’s why:

  • TripAdvisor has 390 million unique visitors per month so it is definitely a force with which to contend. They are working on personalization and making ranking results more tailored to the user’s past behavior.  The listing of hotels and destinations is tailored to the user, and the personalized order is based on the individual user’s behavior pattern.
  • The company has invested a lot of money into upgrading the user interface, and the new format is clean, pleasing, and mobile-friendly. The home page has been updated, and there are categories of hotels that will come up for the user based on past navigation and click-through habits.  There are single calls to action, and sort orders derive from the lowest price point to the highest bidder. 
  • TripAdvisor is removing friction from the booking process for consumers. With Instant Booking, travelers can go directly to the booking stage on TripAdvisor after having looked at reviews and decided on their destination. The booking can be completed on TripAdvisor’s site without navigating back to the hotel website or an Online Travel Agency (OTA) site. Hotels and OTAs who are partners of TripAdvisor pay a commission for their handling of the transaction.
  • With the new interface, property pages are cleaner, as is the overview of hotel rooms. If these are clicked on, the Instant Booking area comes up with an overview of hotel rooms, categories, and pricing, and allows for immediate booking. 

Despite all this, the question remains:  Will TripAdvisor be bought? With approximately a $6 billion market capitalization, there could be possibly a play for someone else (Priceline has a market capitalization of $90 billion). However, Stephen Kaufer, the CEO of TripAdvisor, is seen to be a brilliant player in the travel industry and seems to be investing in the future of the company.

With the recent updates, TripAdvisor is in good shape structurally from a content perspective and with their user interface.  Next they are planning on spending money on advertising, which is a bit contentious with their shareholders, but might give them more exposure with consumers.

For hotel marketers, the biggest challenge at the moment is that the analytic portion of the program needs work.

  • When it comes to the tracking of bookings that come through Instant Booking in the channel segment report, it seems that it will depend on your relationship with TripAdvisor. If your company is a partner (Choice, Marriott, Best Western, etc.), these bookings will show up as TripAdvisor bookings and will be commission-based. For other hotels, they may show up as an OTA booking or direct booking.  The bottom line is that hotels may never be able to evaluate if there is value to the Instant Booking tool if there are no real metrics.
  • TripAdvisor has better data because of the traffic to their site and the behavioral data they are collecting. As TripAdvisor learns through consumer behavior, it will trigger better business intelligence and ultimately deliver better conversion.

So what do hotel decision makers need to know in regards to TripAdvisor?  The reality is that there are many marketing options to consider, and there are changing dynamics with TripAdvisor.  Hotel companies need to look at how to monetize their pages effectively in a constantly changing landscape. 

The metrics for Instant Booking are a bit hard to understand, but the reviews remain critical for consumers looking to maximize their travel experience, and hoteliers will be looking at how the booking option will impact their revenue.


About the Author

Maureen O’Hanlon is a 25-year veteran of the travel and hospitality industry. As a partner with the Prism Partnership, she leads marketing initiatives large and small. Her primary areas of expertise are loyalty programs, sales and reservation training, customer relationship management, digital marketing, sales and marketing audits, and destination marketing.

Prior to joining Prism, Maureen served with Prime Hospitality as SVP of Sales and Marketing overseeing all marketing, advertising and communications efforts in addition to the National Sales efforts and reservations department. She also served for 16 years at Carlson Companies in a variety of roles including EVP of Marketing and Sales for Radisson Hotels and SVP of the Loyalty Division for Carlson Marketing Group. 

Maureen is a past chair of HSMAI’s Americas Board of Directors as well as a past President of the HSMAI New York Chapter. She has received numerous industry honors including being recognized as one of the 25 most influential industry executives by Tour and Travel News.

About HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Council

HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Council connects travel marketers in a way that leverages interactive customer engagement as a marketing medium while increasing the awareness of emerging issues, opportunities and trends. This is accomplished through a wide range of information sharing, networking and educational opportunities. 2016-2017 members include:

  • CHAIR: Holly Zoba, CHDM, Senior Vice President of Hospitality Sales, Signature Worldwide
  • VICE CHAIR: Shawn Paley, CHDM, Director, Global eCommerce & Digital Services, Marriott International
  • Shaun Aukland, Senior Account Executive, Google
  • Aimee Cheek, CHDM, Director of eCommerce, OTO Development
  • Robert Cole, Founder-CEO, RockCheetah
  • Chris Copp, VP, Global Digital Marketing, IHG
  • Joey Egan, Vice President, Marketing & Customer Experience, Leonardo
  • Erica Eyring, CHDM, Director, Account Management, Expedia Media Solutions
  • Isaac Gerstenzang, CHDM, Assistant Vice President, Corporate E-commerce, Destination Hotels
  • Loren Gray, CHDM, Founder, Hospitality Digital Marketing
  • Jamie Hansen, CHDM, Director, Marketing, Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Carolyn Hosna, CHDM, Sr. Corp. Director, Marketing & Distribution, White Lodging
  • Jay Hubbs, III, CHDM, Senior Vice President, eCommerce, Remington Hotels
  • Michael Innocentin, Executive Director, Digital Marketing, FRHI Hotels & Resorts
  • John Jimenez, CHDM, Vice President of E-commerce, Pyramid Hotel Group
  • Chris LaRose, VP, eCommerce Americas, Hilton Worldwide
  • Sarita Mallinger, Regional Director, Digital Marketing, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
  • Delana Meyer, CHDM, Corporate Director of eCommerce and Marketing, Crescent Hotels & Resorts
  • Amy Mierzwinski, CHDM, Principal , John Fareed Hospitality Consulting
  • Anna Paccone, CHDM, eCommerce Director, National Sales, Pillar Hotels & Resorts
  • Donna Quadri-Felitti, CHDM,PHD, Director and Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University
  • Chris Rockett, SVP Sales, Milestone Internet Marketing
  • Mariana Safer, CHDM, Senior Vice President, Marketing, HeBS Digital
  • Kevin Scholl, CHDM, Director of Digital Marketing, Red Roof Inn
  • Dave Spector, Partner, Tambourine
  • Dan Wacksman, CHDM, Senior Vice President, Global Distribution, Outrigger Resorts
  • Christine Beuchert Williams, Sr. Director of Marketing & Ecommerce Strategy, Marcus Hotels & Resorts

Categories: Marketing, Digital
Insight Type: Articles