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After a month or more of public testing, TripAdvisor officially launched a feature in the U.S. where travelers can book a hotel without leaving TripAdvisor’s mobile sites or apps.
However, the lineup of partners that actually process these bookings for TripAdvisor and handle the customer service in the background is extremely limited. TripAdvisor calls the feature Instant Booking.
TripAdvisor said its Instant Booking partners on mobile are Choice Hotels, Getaroom.com, and TripAdvisor-owned Tingo. So although the feature has been in the works for an extended period, so far there are only two outside partners.
Instant Booking is extremely important to TripAdvisor as a way to better convert lookers into bookers without the hassle of handing them off to a third-party website to complete the reservation. This is particularly important on small-screen mobile devices.
But TripAdvisor has had a hard time finding major online travel agency partners, which likely don’t want to further empower an already powerful TripAdvisor, or don’t like the way branding is handled in the Instant Booking process.
Booking.com, for one, has explicitly stated it won’t participate in TripAdvisor Instant Booking for now, although it didn’t specify its reasoning.
“Instant Booking is currently available in the U.S., with a gradual rollout to additional markets and with more partners expected later this year,” says TripAdvisor spokesperson Kevin Carter. “Our partners understand why we are doing this, and we both want the best user experience for travelers.”
“Instant Booking provides a better experience, reducing friction on mobile to the benefit of travelers and our partners alike,” Carter said.
Pirceline-owned Kayak has had a book on Kayak feature for years. Its current partner lineup for book on Kayak includes Airfare.com, Vayama, Travelfusion, Carrentals.com, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty.
Prior to being acquired by an online travel agency, Kayak’s book on Kayak option included partners Travelocity and Expedia.
Both are holdouts, as is Booking.com, for TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking feature so far.
There is an interesting angle in Tingo’s participation in TripAdvisor Instant Booking, especially for those people who fear that Instant Booking is a precursor to TripAdvisor becoming a full-fledged online travel agency.
TripAdvisor launched Tingo, which enables travelers to book prepaid rooms and then rebooks them if the rate drops before the stay, in 2012, and it already acts much like an online travel agency.
Now, TripAdvisor’s in-house online travel agency is a key partner in TripAdvisor Instant Booking.