After coming to terms in what is a landmark deal for TripAdvisor, Booking.com has gone live in TripAdvisor Instant Booking — in force [see screenshots below].
For example, in the first 23 listings Skift examined for a December 16 stay in New York City, more than half of the listings — 12, to be precise — had Booking.com as TripAdvisor’s booking partner on the TripAdvisor site.
Booking.com handled the bookings on TripAdvisor for hotel chains that have not agreed to participate in TripAdvisor Instant Booking or haven’t implemented it yet in the case of Wyndham. These holdout brands include Candlewood Suites (InterContinental Hotels Group), Homewood Suites (Hilton Worldwide), Staybridge Suites (IHG), Pod 51, the Lex NYC, Four Points by Sheraton (Starwood), Wyndham New Yorker, Archer Hotel, Doubletree (Hilton), Element (Starwood), French Quarter Guest Apartments, and Holiday Inn (IHG).
For the most part, brands or properties that have partnered with TripAdvisor Instant Booking, including Marriott, Ascend, Row NYC, Sanctuary, Citizen M, Library, Bryant Park, and New Yorker hotels handled the other 11 bookings for themselves on the TripAdvisor site.
There are several takeaways from the ongoing Booking.com implementation in TripAdvisor Instant Booking and the feature in general:
- TripAdvisor Instant Booking is compressive: All of the first 23 listings we examined in New York City had a TripAdvisor Instant Booking option, symbolizing the emergence of TripAdvisor as a booking site in its own right. Each also offered classic metasearch referrals too.
- If the dominant presence of Booking.com in New York City is a representative sampling, Booking.com — and in 2016 sister brands Priceline.com and Agoda — will get a big volume of bookings from their partnership with TripAdvisor, the largest travel website in the world. On the other hand, they will have to share revenue with TripAdvisor.
- Hotel chains that have yet to agree to participate in TripAdvisor Instant Booking, including InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood, and Hilton Worldwide, will have to be content to sit back and watch Booking.com and others get a piece of their action.
- Smaller online travel agencies such as Getaroom.com, which has been a TripAdvisor booking partner, may be getting squeezed out to some degree as Booking.com becomes ascendant.
- TripAdvisor’s branding for partners in TripAdvisor Instant Booking has evolved since the site launched the feature about a year and half ago, and the evolution is ongoing as TripAdvisor and partners keep testing it.
- Booking.com and other TripAdvisor Instant Booking partners are now getting prominent branding on the pages where consumers select their room types and when they submit their credit card details, for example.
On the branding issue, which had been one of the reasons that Booking.com had been reluctant to sign on with TripAdvisor, consider the Book on TripAdvisor display below for the Candlewood Suites New York City Times Square for a $169 nightly rate. In a bow to rate parity rules in the U.S., that’s the same that the hotel itself, as well as Expedia.com and its sister company Hotels.com are offering. There is no branding for Booking.com in this example but there will be plenty of branding once users select Book Now for the Book on TripAdvisor option at the right.
On the next room selection page below, there are eight mentions of Booking.com and three of them are in bold blue lettering:
- TripAdvisor in partnership with Booking.com
- Booking.com (the logo) We have partnered with Booking.com to find you the best room
- If you mouse over an information icon, it says: TripAdvisor will send your information securely to Booking.com. You will receive a confirmation email from Booking.com with your booking details and can make changes via Booking.com. Your booking will also be securely stored on TripAdvisor in the Bookings section.
- Your room provided by Booking.com
- Rooms and rates provided by Booking.com.
If you select the Queen studio, for example, for a nonrefundable rate of $169 plus $32 in taxes and fees, the Booking.com branding at the top of the page stays the same, and below the customer’s credit card information are the following additional references:
- Booking.com (the logo) Total price from Booking.com: $200.93
- Trusted partner. We work with Booking.com to make your booking as easy as possible.
- Booking.com (the logo)
- TripAdvisor has partnered with Booking.com to bring you this deal.
- Booking.com (the logo)
The branding that partners get in Book on TripAdvisor is a work in progress as TripAdvisor and its partners are obviously testing it and might be running several versions simultaneously to see what it is optimum.
One thing that is clear is that partners are getting a lot more branding on TripAdvisor Instant Booking than when TripAdvisor rolled out the feature a year and a half ago. For example, consider the branding that AccorHotels.com got about a year ago in TripAdvisor Instant Booking on the room selection page. In the screenshot below, other than the information section that is hidden until you mouse over it, there are only two references to Accor — the logo and the statement, “We have teamed up with AccorHotels.com to find you the best room.”
In contrast, consider the room selection page for a TripAdvisor Instant Booking page in this screenshot below from last night. In addition to the Accor logo and the statement about the Accor partnership in the right-hand column, TripAdvisor has now added at the top of the page: TripAdvisor in partnership with AccorHotels.com (the hotel’s logo) and in green, “Your room, provided by AccorHotels.com,” giving Accor much more prominent branding than it had a year ago.
The implementation of Booking.com as a TripAdvisor Instant Booking partner triggers a lot of questions. Among them, is there really room to add Expedia as a partner if it eventually decides to jump in? What is the fine print of this Priceline Group-TripAdvisor agreement regarding that possibility.
As this TripAdvisor-Priceline Group partnership takes off, observe it closely because it signals a new stage in earnest in travel bookings — the real emergence of third-party sites such as TripAdvisor and perhaps Google at some juncture that were primarily media sites as real forces in travel transactions.