Reading between the lines, Kaufer is saying that TripAdvisor will continue to be a great source of leads for travel advertisers despite Priceline's pending acquisition of Kayak, and that TripAdvisor's scale makes competitors interesting, but a relative non-issue.
It’s been an impactful few months for TripAdvisor and the online travel business, as Google bought Frommer’s, Priceline announced it would acquire Kayak, TripAdvisor scooped up Wanderfly, and startup Gogobot alleged that it dictates TripAdvisor’s roadmap on social-travel initiatives.
Skift conducted an email interview with TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer, who shed light on these and other issues, while dodging direct answers to some of the questions. But, even for the latter, you can read between the lines to surmise some of the meaning.
Skift: Do you think Priceline’s acquisition of Kayak is a net plus or minus for TripAdvisor? Will TripAdvisor lose business from the likes of Priceline and Kayak? Do you think online travel agencies, wary of the Priceline-Kayak relationship, will increasingly look to TripAdvisor as a better lead-generation option?
Kaufer: It’s business as usual at TripAdvisor. We continue to focus on delivering our own great products to help our community plan the perfect trip.
We also continue to offer our partners great opportunities to drive leads and reach researching travelers.
Skift: Lots of people are saying that TripAdvisor is killing off guidebooks, that it is the guidebook of the future, or even of the present. In that regard, what value do you see in your content partnerships, such as the one you have with Fodor’s? Do you envision more content partnerships of this type?
Kaufer: TripAdvisor has more than 500 content syndication partnerships with travel brands, and we recently announced a content syndication and review collection partnership with Wyndham Hotel Group, as well as a content syndication agreement with Best Western.
As you noted, we have also formed content partnerships with guidebook companies like Fodor’s. We feel user-generated content is valuable to travelers whether it’s online or included in a traditional guide, albeit fresher online.
We’re open to working with a wide range of companies who are eager to strengthen their offerings with traveler content.
Skift: You recently acquired Wanderfly. Was the opportunity of making something more out of the Wanderfly brand the driver of the acquisition or was it more about integrating a team with expertise in social?
Kaufer: The Wanderfly team understands the value in social travel planning, which is an area that is important to us. They’re a great asset as we continue our developments in this area and I am delighted to welcome them to TripAdvisor.
Skift: Do you lose any sleep over Gogobot? Is there anything Gogobot is doing that you sit up and say — that’s interesting, we should be doing something like that?
We’re focused on delivering the best experience for our traveler community of millions. Since 2007, we have been launching features that tap into social networks as we continually enhance the social travel planning experience for travelers and work with Facebook to highlight the wisdom of your friends and their friends. And we do this at scale. Of the more than 60 contributions we receive a minute, one in four reviews is submitted by a Facebook-connected user. In all, TripAdvisor averaged more than 34 million monthly Facebook visitors to its website and Facebook app during the third quarter, according to AppData.
Skift: What are the next steps in the Scotland bed and breakfast case? What would be the impact of an adverse ruling there?
Kaufer: We don’t comment on threatened or pending litigation, but nothing is more important to us than the authenticity of our reviews. People continue to join and visit TripAdvisor in increasing numbers because of the usefulness that the traveler reviews and opinions provide.
Skift: Hyatt, Best Western, Preferred Hotels, and La Quinta are among the chains working with HotelMe and providing the site with verified reviews. Have you ever worked on developing verified reviews as a supplement to your current review practices? Wouldn’t verified reviews benefit site users who are looking for some added assurances about review writers?
Kaufer: Ultimately, we believe all travelers, not just the one individual who made the reservation or has the receipt, are entitled to share their honest feedback about their experience. The average traveler reads dozens of reviews before booking, allowing them to get the complete picture of a property and make an educated decision based on the opinions of many.
We allow hoteliers to respond to any review with a management response that appears directly below the review. We strongly encourage business owners to take advantage of this feature.
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Photo credit: Stephen Kaufer, President and CEO, TripAdvisor at The PhoCusWright Conference in November 2010. PhocusWright / Flickr