It took around 21 months in 2013 and 2014 for TripAdvisor to double its number of user reviews and opinions to 200 million — and you can expect the company to reach the 300-million mark considerably faster than that.
In the process, TripAdvisor will boost its number of reviews from verified guests, making them more useful for consumers trying to pick a place to stay, and likely putting the online travel agencies’ user-review collection efforts further in the rearview mirror.
That’s because TripAdvisor, on several fronts, is placing a higher priority on integrating with hotels’ technology providers at a much faster clip than the vast majority of its peers.
Since 2013, TripAdvisor’s Review Express feature has enabled hotels to partner with TripAdvisor to send cobranded emails after guests’ stays asking them to post hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.
Until now, business owners had to visit TripAdvisor’s management center to craft these customizable emails to customers to solicit reviews. But TripAdvisor last month enhanced the service by integrating with hotels’ existing technology providers, including property management systems and Internet booking engines, to automate the review solicitation process.
More than 100 technology providers have signed up to integrate with TripAdvisor to let their hotel clients automate their Review Express collaboration, making the process much easier.
This should really help hotels and TripAdvisor scale up their reviews. TripAdvisor estimates that hotels using Review Express generate about one-third more reviews than hotels not participating. Consumers tend to trust the veracity of users’ judgments about a property when there are larger volumes of reviews.
Importantly, the hotel can’t select which guests to send these review-solicitation emails but must send them to all guests who have provided permission to receive emails. TripAdvisor states that it doesn’t use these guest emails for any of its own campaigns.
Founded in 2000, TripAdvisor collected 1 million user reviews by 2005, reached 100 million by March 2013, and 21 months later broke through the 200-million mark.
TripAdvisor’s User-Review Milestones
|When||Number of Reviews|
|January 2005||1 million|
|June 2007||10 million|
|July 2009||25 million|
|July 2011||50 million|
|March 2013||100 million|
|December 2014||200 million|
Source: TripAdvisor, published reports
Major online travel agencies, such as those in the Expedia Inc. and Priceline Group folds, were late to the review collection process and only accept verified reviews.
Some would say they really lag the efforts of TripAdvisor, which historically has been more focused on user-generated content than its online travel agency rivals.
The Booking.com website states it hosts 47.17 million “real ratings” and Venere, a hotel booking site owned by Expedia, states it has more than 1 million verified reviews. Expedia.com doesn’t list its number of user reviews but in March 2012 Expedia.com stated it had 7.5 million reviews.
Leslie Cafferty, a spokesperson for the Priceline Group, which owns Booking.com, says the comparisons between TripAdvisor’s review numbers and Booking.com’s are not apples to Apples.
Unlike TripAdvisor, Cafferty says Booking.com accepts only hotel reviews and from verified guests. TripAdvisor’s numbers include reviews and opinions for hotels, restaurants and other products on TripAdvisor’s sites, and they are not all necessarily from hotels guests and restaurant patrons.
Importantly, Cafferty says, Booking.com removes hotel reviews after 14 months to keep its review collection up to date.
TripAdvisor keeps reviews for years unless a hotel can show that its property has been subject to a major renovation.
Cafferty estimates that Booking.com has collected around 120 million verified hotels reviews since it began collecting them, and currently has more than 40 million reviews in its 30 top markets.
TripAdvisor has done more to integrate with hotel technology systems than any other booking site, although Booking.com, which launched a BookingSuite division to power hotel websites, could be playing catch-up.
In 2013, TripAdvisor integrated with Internet booking engines used by independent hotels and B&Bs to bring them onboard to its hotel metasearch product, Hotel Shopper, and now TripAdvisor is going a step further and tying into hotels’ property management systems as part of the Review Express automation drive.
Booking.com ironically is also giving hotel customers of its new BookingSuite products the option to integrate with TripAdvisor Hotel Shopper, which generates commissions for Booking.com when TripAdvisor sends leads to hotel websites that use the Booking.com booking engine.