TripAdvisor users long-complained about the pop-up windows that appeared when they searched for a hotel on its sites, but CEO Steve Kaufer long-resisted transitioning to the more-appealing Kayak-style hotel metasearch.

Speaking to financial analysts the other day at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston, Kaufer said he now “takes the lump” for not moving TripAdvisor to hotel metasearch “earlier in our lifetime.”

Kaufer’s very bullish about hotel metasearch now, and it should be rolled out globally on mobile and desktops by June in an accelerated push. He points to an improved user experience, and he envisions increased booking-conversion rates for advertisers, leading to higher CPCs in more-frequent “auctions,” and meatier ad budgets to be spent on TripAdvisor.

In other words, if you think TripAdvisor is a cash cow and growth engine now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Along the same lines, Kaufer described why he believes companies such as Booking.com and Expedia won’t catch up with TripAdvisor on the user-review front.

They are adding reviews, Kaufer said, but in addition to reviews, TripAdvisor also shows users guest photos, room tips, reviews from your friends and “where your social set has been.”

“We are already at the next level,” Kaufer says.

“Those guys haven’t even begun to think about it, let alone act on it,” he added.

In other news, Kaufer said:

  • TripAdvisor has shown a strong track record and will likely make additional acquisitions over the next couple of years.
  • TripAdvisor has been “pleasantly surprised” about Google’s lack of progress in building a travel vertical despite acquisitions of ITA Software, Zagat and Frommer’s. Google “remains an unknown in our future.”
  • TripAdvisor will probably implement a “book on TripAdvisor,” also known as assisted bookings, option for its hotel metasearch, as Kayak and Room 77 have done. Kaufer says it doesn’t “add a whole lot to the equation,” and may be a detriment if it makes it more expensive to book with TripAdvisor.