It's no surprise to see Skyscanner absorb the last bits of the user-generated reviews brand formerly known as Gogobot. But the price-comparison search company's bet on soliciting reviews from its own customers remains intriguing. The move highlights its ambition to become a superapp for travel.
Skyscanner, owned by Chinese travel giant Ctrip, will close Trip by Skyscanner next month, marking the end of the user-generated travel planning mobile app and website founded in 2010 under the brand Gogobot.
Skyscanner pulled the plug at a time when consumers don’t want to visit yet another travel website when they already visit so many to plan and book vacations. Also, Facebook and TripAdvisor have proved to be more popular sources of like-minded travel advice.
Since acquiring the company in November 2017, Skyscanner salvaged its collection of reviews and photos of destinations and attractions. In recent months, Skyscanner has been importing the older Trip/Gogobot content. It plans to use the reviews and photos as a base to prod its users to post their own comments and images.
The move comes in response to a key trend. A growing number of consumers want to do all of their travel research and booking at the same source — or from as few sources as possible.
In the past year, Skyscanner has joined a trend of travel brands working harder to provide help for travelers looking for inspiration or destination research. TripAdvisor redesigned its homepage with a socially-influenced advice feed, adding to its reviews and booking engine. Pinterest touted a surge in travelers sharing destination recommendations on its social media platform. In China Mafwengo, a travel user-reviews site, raised hundreds of millions of dollars of funding.
Yet trends are pointing toward the superapp model popularized in China, said Travis Katz, vice president of product at Skyscanner and the former CEO of Trip/Gogobot.
“I expect some of the stand-alone services to merge or fade over time,” Katz said.
The move may be illustrated by Google’s increasingly Swiss-Army-knife approach to travel.
To be sure, Skyscanner’s parent Ctrip Group also acquired Trip for a more cynical reason. It used the brand and address to launch a new online travel agency, Trip.com.
The Rating Game
Skyscanner has faced a challenge in collecting reviews. A majority of its customers use it to find other sites to book their travel. So the company often doesn’t have a way to collect post-trip reviews.
But the company has aimed to change that. It has been ramping up its instant, or direct, booking of flights and hotels. In the first quarter of 2019, Edinburgh-based Skyscanner’s direct booking program touted 250 percent growth in bookings year-over-year. The brand lets consumers buy plane tickets without leaving its site or app.
Skyscanner will supplement the user reviews with updated hours of operation and similar practical information from TrustYou, a Recruit Holdings-owned guest feedback company. What’s more, the team has been importing content from Twizoo, another user-generated content app that Skyscanner acquired in 2017.
A Long Migration
During the acquisition, Skyscanner said it would move content users had posted to the main Skyscanner website and app. The process has been slow.
A month ago, Skyscanner enabled the first reviews written by Skyscanner users, said. A user can find these by scrolling to the bottom of any city-specific screen in the app.
Katz said his team needed time to essentially translate their software code into programming languages used by Skyscanner.
This year, the Trip/Gogobot’s content has begun to appear under the “explore” tab of Skyscanner’s mobile app.
In a few random searches, Skift did find many photos and reviews. But the user reviews we saw tended to be at least a year old. One of the rare freshest ones was Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia church. It had more than 700 reviews — the most recent of which was from April.
However, the company pointed us to examples of more up-to-date reviews, such as of a seafood restaurant in Los Angeles.
About a year ago, Skyscanner essentially stopped support for the Android and Apple standalone apps. User reviews of those apps reflect the drought. It’s a fall for the Palo Alto,-based brand, which had raised $39 million in funding.
In a side note, Skyscanner has used Trip/Gogobot for more than just its content. It used the company’s automated skill at search engine optimization. For example, it applied Trip’s techniques for online search in Google, boosting its organic traffic “significantly” in its markets outside of its UK home, Katz said.
Photo credit: Ctrip CEO Jane Sun in conversation with Co-Chairman of The Carlyle Group, David Rubenstein at the 2019 Aspen Action Forum in Aspen, Colorado in 2019. On September 16, Skyscanner, which is owned by Ctrip Group, will close the Trip by Skyscanner user-generated content website and mobile app once known as Gogobot. Ctrip Group