Skift Take

On a logical basis, TripAdvisor might be sitting in an advantageous position as Priceline-Kayak and Expedia-Trivago battle it out. But, there's always the chance that Priceline and Expedia may not follow the script.

Priceline is buying Kayak and Expedia is taking a majority stake in Trivago, and TripAdvisor figures it is sitting right there in the middle, and will make a bunch of money on the shifting alliances.

And, if the topsy-turvy competitive landscape isn’t confusing enough, TripAdvisor has now rolled out its own Kayak- and Trivago-style hotel metasearch on about 15% of its users’ desktops, but TripAdvisor is launching it with its own twists.

Here’s an early screenshot of TripAdvisor’s hotel metasearch display:

TripAdvisor hotel meta

You’ll notice two things immediately: TripAdvisor gives a lot of space to online travel agencies’ branding messages. Expedia’s is: “Best hotel price guaranteed, book now with Expedia.” And’s blurb is: “Quick, Simple, Easy to Use. Best Price Guarantee!”

That is a lot of verbiage.

And TripAdvisor also goes to pains to be more transparent than Kayak, for instance, in detailing in unmistakable terms the base rate, taxes and fees, and total rate of the room.

In contrast, look how Kayak handles hotel metasearch for the same property, the Library Hotel in Manhattan:

Kayak hotel meta

There is no room for OTAs’ marketing messages in Kayak’s initial display. And, the user can readily view the $480 base rate, but only sees the total rate when placing the cursor on the listing. The taxes and fees part is never explicitly detailed.

Are the differences important?

They could be critical. And, there will be a race to see whether consumers are more apt to book on TripAdvisor’s version of hotel metasearch or Kayak’s, and a lot of money and business fotunes hang in the balance.

Meanwhile, speaking of balance, TripAdvisor believes it is a company strategically placed in the middle as Kayak becomes a Priceline subsidiary, and Trivago falls into Expedia’s hands.

“On the competitive landscape, the fact that Priceline bought Kayak and Expedia bought Trivago, we think it’s probably revenue neutral to revenue positive for us,” TripAdvisor CFO Julie Bradley said at Deutsche Bank’s DbAccess 21st Annual Media and Telecom Conference March 5.

“So when TripAdvisor is part of Expedia, Expedia would spend more on us. But now that kind of both those players own their own meta, they’re probably less like — Expedia’s probably less likely to spend on Kayak, Priceline less likely to spend on Trivago. And TripAdvisor is uniquely positioned in the middle with high quality traffic and lots of it. So we feel pretty good about the competitive landscape.” 

It’s all a high-stakes gamble for TripAdvisor because Expedia and Priceline are probably its two largest customers.

Only time will tell if shifting OTA alliances play to TripAdvisor’s favor.

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Tags: expedia, metasearch, priceline, tripadvisor

Photo credit: Is TripAdvisor's new hotel metasearch display cluttered, brand-friendly, or both? It won't look the same a year from now -- that's for sure. TripAdvisor

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