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TripAdvisor has grand ambitions that it can grab the segment of the hotel industry that doesn’t play with the major online travel agencies. In the process, TripAdvisor would become more comprehensive, improve its mobile apps, and attract a lucrative new revenue stream.
TripAdvisor has been trying to connect with independent hotels and B&Bs on a scale that its competitors haven’t tried, and now it has debuted a way for those properties to transact bookings on TripAdvisor without customers having to navigate away from TripAdvisor’s apps.
In theory, its new TripConnect Instant Booking feature would improve mobile conversions for TripAdvisor and independent hotels participating in TripAdvisor’s hotel price comparison feature.
In most cases the business model would shift from the hotels paying TripAdvisor for leads on a cost per click basis to the hotels paying TripAdvisor a commission for completed bookings.
The big question for TripAdvisor about TripConnect and the new TripConnect Instant Booking program is: If you build it, will they come?
TripAdvisor announced that in the third quarter it will offer independent hotels a way to offer their properties within TripAdvisor apps without customers having to navigate away to the properties’ own sites for bookings, and at the risk of losing customers in the shuffle.
TripConnect Instant Booking is the latest twist of the TripAdvisor TripConnect program, which debuted last year and enables independent hotels, B&Bs and inns that subscribe to TripAdvisor Business Listings to contract with a TripAdvisor-certified Internet booking engine for connectivity, and then to offer their rates and availabiliies in the TripAdvisor hotel-price comparison feature on a cost per click basis.
As with TripAdvisor Instant Booking partners such as Getaroom.com, Choice Hotels and TripAdvisor’s Tingo, which handle fulfillment and customer service when customers choose to book a hotel using the book TripAdvisor option, independent hotels participating in Instant Booking can contract with connectivity partners such as Sabre Hospitality Solutions, Cubilis, Freetobook, SiteMinder, TourOnline and WebHotelier to enable their properties to be booked within TripAdvisor’s mobile apps.
Jay Karen, CEO of Select Registry, a marketing organization for B&Bs, inns and boutique hotels, says 95% of the B&B industry doesn’t participate with online travel agencies because of high commissions.
“I believe the jury is still out in our industry as to the value proposition of TripConnect, and not knowing what the commission will be for Instant Booking makes it impossible to really judge what the value will be,” Karen says.
For its part, TripAdvisor hasn’t publicized the number of properties participating in TripConnect so it is tough to gauge how its bet on the hotel long tail is working out.