TripAdvisor is taking the next step toward becoming an all-around booking platform, or quasi online travel agency, as it intends to launch Instant Booking for tours and activities on desktop and mobile during the current quarter.
In the next few years don’t be surprised if TripAdvisor, which last month debuted user reviews for airlines, likewise launches Instant Booking for flights, which would be a logical step for a company that wants to become a one-stop shop for the entire trip-planning and booking experience.
Regarding tours and activities, TripAdvisor, which acquired online tours maven Viator in 2014, believes that such “attractions can be our next billion-dollar revenue business,” TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer said during the companys fourth quarter earnings call February 11.
Viator Platform Will Likely Be Diminished
TripAdvisor is in the process of adding Viator’s tours and activities’ booking capabilities to TripAdvisor-branded websites and apps so that travelers can book tours and hotels on TripAdvisor without having to access Viator or third-party sites.
Viator already does a lot of Instant Booking, meaning it is the merchant of record and enables consumers to book tours and get confirmations or vouchers directly from Viator.
TripAdvisor hasn’t revealed precisely what form its Instant Booking of tours and activities will take but it assuredly will take place on TripAdvisor sites and apps, which means TripAdvisor will be downgrading the Viator brand in some fashion over time.
From Virtual Tourist to Flipkey, TripAdvisor has a history of downgrading or eliminating brands it acquired in favor of the TripAdvisor brand.
“Viator will become less relevant in the future,” says one competitor.
Viator didn’t respond to requests for comments about TripAdvisor’s move, and a TripAdvisor spokesperson said the company doesn’t have any more details to share now.
One thing TripAdvisor stated during its earnings call that it will do is to leverage its large base of app users and send them notifications about tours and activities when they are in-market. TripAdvisor believes that getting users in the habit of using TripAdvisor to book tours, activities and restaurants will also pay dividends for its hotel and vacation rental offerings as its platform becomes “stickier.”
“We believe that capturing only single-digit market share will enable attractions to become our next billion-dollar revenue business,” Kaufer said, adding that a very fragmented tours and activities is an $80 billion market opportunity in the U.S. and Europe alone.
Viator grew rapidly in 2015, Kaufer said, with its bookable properties rising from 11,000 to 32,000.
Is Instant Bookings for Flights on the Roadmap?
It would be a logical extension for TripAdvisor, which launched flight metasearch in 2009 and owns Seatguru and Gateguru, to begin doing flight bookings in the next few years.
If TripAdvisor wants an-all around trip-planning and booking experience then how can it forever neglect flights, which is where many travelers begin their trip-planning?
During a discussion at the Phocuswright conference in Florida on November 18, 2015, Kaufer said it “bugs” him that some airlines tout their “transparency” when in reality they refuse to make their fares available across the Web.
“Flights is an important part of travel,” Kaufer said. “We have a very global flights offering. In the U.S., with consolidation, the top four carriers carry 80% of the passengers, and the governments allow the consolidation, OK. But now various airlines are coming down with, look, we don’t want — my interpretation, we don’t want consumers shopping around. We’re not going to put our fares — nothing to do with the contractual — so just we’re not going to put our fares available in lots of places so consumers can find the best price. That’s not transparent.
“So it really bugs me when I see some of their ads talking about transparency, but it’s not actually offering [it] to consumers,” Kaufer said.
More transparency, and airlines distributing their fares and ancillary services to more third-party sites, would be a nice thing for TripAdvisor in its quest to become the ultimate site to help travelers “plan, compare and book.”