TripAdvisor has been on an acquisition tear in restaurant reservations platforms and attractions businesses and it has huge ambitions in each category.
CEO Stephen Kaufer envisions big margins in the restaurant reservations business, noting “there tends to be a winner-take-all in a given city.”
TripAdvisor, which acquired TheFork last year, will likely be battling the Priceline Group’s newly acquired OpenTable, Yelp and other companies in many geographies.
TripAdvisor also acquired tours and activities provider Viator last year for $200 million, and Kaufer said TripAdvisor and Viator can become the online travel agency for attractions.
In the restaurant reservations sphere, usage of apps becomes habit-forming and when the cost of customer acquisition gets down to near zero then hefty margins can result, said Kaufer, who addressed these issues in TripAdvisor’s first quarter of 2015 earnings call today.
Hotels are Foundation for Growth in Restaurants and Attractions
CFO Julie Bradley said TripAdvisor is investing for the long term in non-hotel areas, including restaurant reservations and attractions and has the luxury of funding the effort though its stable and growing hotel business.
“We see huge market opportunity,” Bradley said.
TripAdvisor has been acquiring restaurant reservations platforms in Europe, including Portugal’s BestTables in the first quarter, and TheFork expanded into Turkey and Sweden. It has a presence in eight other European countries, as well as Brazil.
Kaufer said TripAdvisor is the closest entity to being the place to research tours and activities. He said between the demand that TripAdvisor can help generate and the supply that Viator brings, including its expanded marketplace, TripAdvisor’s and Viator’s destiny could be in becoming “the online travel agency for attractions.”
In the first quarter, which is seasonally slow for attractions, TripAdvisor’s “other” segment, including restaurants, attractions and vacation rentals, generated $43 million in revenue, a 187 percent jump. That increase was driven by acquisitions of attractions and restaurant reservations businesses.
Adjusted EBITDA for restaurants, attractions and vacation rentals in the seasonally slow first quarter, however, was negative $5 million.