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TripAdvisor is renowned for its millions of traveler-written hotel reviews, and now it is taking a similar tack with its recently launched hotel metasearch product, inviting often-ignored independent hotels and B&Bs to participate en masse on a cost-per-click basis.
With big hotel chains and online travel agencies dominating the hotel metasearch real estate on sites such as Kayak, TripAdvisor’s latest move can be seen as a clever way to give travelers more choice — and to fatten TripAdvisor’s revenue by opening up the metasearch flood gates to lesser-known properties.
TripAdvisor plans to launch TripAdvisor Connect in late 2013, giving smaller, independent properties the tools to manage advertising campaigns in a manner that larger properties take for granted.
Of course, independent hotels and B&Bs would have to bid for placement in TripAdvisor’s hotel metasearch product, and that could turn out to be a thankless task, depending on market conditions.
To participate in TripAdvisor Connect properties have to be enrolled in TripAdvisor’s subscription Business Listings service, and they have to feature real-time availability and online booking capabilities through a booking engine that TripAdvisor would have to certify.
Jay Karen, the CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, thinks TripAdvisor’s product is a big deal:
“Millions of TripAdvisor visitors bypass B&Bs when searching by dates of stay, because there has been no connectivity to our inventory. The lack of connectivity made it seem as though B&Bs had no vacancy, which has always been misleading. The only way B&Bs would show up as available would be if they gave inventory to the some of the large OTAs TripAdvisor worked with…
“If the reservation systems in our industry participate through an API that will reveal which B&Bs and inns have rooms available – and then can book directly with the properties – this is a big step forward. And it would certainly increase the value proposition for participating in their Business Listings program.”
For cash- and time-strapped property owners, these requirements in themselves may preclude a lot of independents from participating.
But, TripAdvisor argues that the connectivity tools it is providing to booking engines and hotels will serve to make the playing field less uneven.
“Major online travel agencies and hotel chains have been able to bid for traffic on TripAdvisor for many years and we have provided channels for review collection,” says Jean-Charles Lacoste, TripAdvisor’s vice president of Direct Connect Solutions. “Now, TripAdvisor Connect will provide automated and self-managed versions of these services to hundreds of thousands of independent hotels and B&Bs.”
TripAdvisor says it will offer tiered connectivity plans for certified internet booking engines, depending on the services offered, and they in turn can enable their hotel partners to bid for placement in TripAdvisor metasearch.
Here’s a FAQ on API implementation for certified Internet booking engines.