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The all-powerful TripAdvisor has been unable to convince its largest online travel agency partners to facilitate hotel bookings right within TripAdvisor apps. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for those conversations.
TripAdvisor announced that Best Western will become partner in a feature that enables users to book a hotel on TripAdvisor without leaving its apps, but that is essentially cover for the larger trend: Major online travel agencies have been unwilling to sign up.
The feaure, Instant Booking, is a key part of TripAdvisor’s hotel metasearch strategy because users convert from lookers into bookers at a higher rate when they can book right in the app without having to navigate away to a hotel site to complete the booking.
That also would mean TripAdvisor would be able to collect higher costs per click and attract additional revenue. When major online travel agencies boycott participating in the feature, that limits its comprehensiveness in terms hotels that can be booked right in the TripAdvisor app.
“OTAs (online travel agencies) expressed varying degrees of interest” in participating in Instant Booking, TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer said during the company’s second quarter earnings call July 23.
You can interpret that to mean that although they all participate in TripAdvisor metasearch offering bookings on their own websites, none of the major online travel agencies have gone along with facilitating direct booking within the TripAdvisor app.
There is only one relatively small, independent online travel agency, Getaroom.com, participating in Instant Booking for now. The other OTA enrollee is Tingo, which is part of TripAdvisor’s Smarter Travel Media family of brands.
Major online travel agencies are likely not participating in the book-on-TripAdvisor feature out of reluctance to bolster an already powerful TripAdvisor, as well as for other commercial and branding issues.
When travelers select Book on TripAdvisor (at right) as their booking option within a TripAdvisor app, they get a message during the booking process that Getaroom, for example, is actually handling customer service or support.
Among hotels, Choice Hotels is the lone Instant Booking participant for now although TripAdvisor announced that Best Western has agreed to come on board during the third quarter
But, Kaufer conceded that other big chains aren’t in a hurry to sign up.
“We feel a stronger sense of urgency than many of the big hotel chains,” Kaufer said.
One of the reasons for their reluctance is that the feature is only available on TripAdvisor’s mobile apps for now, and since volumes are relatively low, the hotels aren’t seeing an immense amount of benefit. In addition, they prefer bookings through their own websites.
Kaufer said he expects many chains to eventually participate in TripAdvisor Instant booking, although for them it is a matter of time, resources and testing.
TripAdvisor and global distribution system Travelport announced July 24 that Travelport would connect its hotel partners to TripAdvisor through an API (application programming interface) and that some of them would participate in TripAdvisor Instant Booking.
Certain Starwood properties would participate in TripAdvisor Instant Booking through Travelport, although such involvement appears to be somewhat different from that of other TripAdvisor partners.
“Our partnership with Travelport means that hotels that have inventory with Travelport will be able to start receiving reservations through TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking feature,” says TripAdvisor spokesperson Kevin Carter.
“Hotels that have inventory with Travelport may provide TripAdvisor with a customer service number, which TripAdvisor will provide to travelers so that they can modify, cancel, or ask questions about their booking,” Carter says.
Kaufer said it is his “sincere hope” that online travel agencies, hotel chains and independent hotels will eventually participate in TripAdvisor Instant Booking, but in a worst-case scenario, if they don’t, then TripAdvisor users would have the same functionality that they have on TripAdvisor’s apps today.
The Priceline Group has gone on the record stating it values its relationship with TripAdvisor, but it won’t participate in TripAdvisor Instant Booking.
After officially launching Instant Booking in May, Kaufer said TripAdvisor will extend Instant Bookings to desktops and tablets during the third quarter.