You've heard other online travel companies talk about the "connected trip." But Tripadvisor focuses instead on the "considered trip" as its north star. CEO Steve Kaufer said engaged travelers, who use his brand to plan all parts of a trip, are his top target.
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The CEOs of both Booking Holdings and Expedia Group have, in recent months, used the term “connected trip” to describe a vision of combining disparate trip elements into a package they service at all stages. But Tripadvisor prefers to focus on a concept it calls “the considered trip.”
“As other players come into online travel — Google, in particular, with a big share of search traffic — where can we stand out?” asked Kaufer rhetorically. “What should be our north star to follow in how we’re serving our customers?”
“The answer is the ‘considered trip,’ the long weekend or week where you’re taking somebody who says they’re interested in explore location X,” Kaufer said. “We piece it all together: the hotel, the experiences, the dining, and the shopping.”
Pursuing a strategy focused on ‘the considered trip’ means making some operational adjustments to provide relevant functionality. On the positive side, Tripadvisor has been enhancing tools for creating shared itineraries and providing recommendations relevant to a user’s preferences. In late June, Tripadvisor launched a new suite of “Travel Safe” tools to help consumers find, filter for, and validate health and safety information to feel more confident with their future travel choices. More than 14,000 properties are participating.
But the company has also had to de-emphasize some other activities, partly to focus on the “considered trip” and partly because Tripadvisor cut its workforce by about a quarter, laying off about 900 workers due to pandemic-related revenue shortfalls.
“When you focus on the considered trip, to some degree, you have to do less of other things, such as page-level optimization of booking flow or perfecting flight search,” Kaufer said. “We have about 400 million users a month across our brands, but I need to set the expectation that if that [traffic] number drops, that’s okay with us, if the repeat rate, or the number of people coming back, goes up.
Kaufer’s remarks amplified ones he made when discussing earnings this year. He noted then that, “at the end of the day, our total unique users per month might go down, but the repeat rate goes way up because we’ve found the set of audience that is entirely — that loves being dependent upon Tripadvisor for the whole experience versus using us for a point task. And that’s not a 1-quarter or a 2-quarter journey. But that is, I’d say, the biggest way that we think this pandemic will contribute to reinventing Tripadvisor.”
The company said on June 22 that April and May consolidated year-over-year revenue performance was approximately 10 percent of last year’s comparable period, and the company currently expects June revenue will approach 20 percent of June 2019. But the company didn’t provide guidance on possible drops in overall traffic or gains in repeat usage.
Defending Viator’s Listing Fee
A week ago, TripAdvisor’s main experiences brand Viator announced some changes in its processes, which included Viator saying it would roll out a product review process when onboarding new listings. Social media erupted with heated debate about Viator’s proposed new one-time $29, or €25, listing fee that’s separate from any booking-based commissions.
Kaufer defended the move during his Skift Forum Europe interview.
“Look, I understand some folks want to take potshots at us on the fee, but the issue we’re solving for our travelers is providing great supply,” Kaufer said. “The fee is only $29, and it doesn’t start until August 1. So our message is that we want to make sure the next 200,000 products that we onboard are worth buying and that operators will invest the time to upload great photos and descriptions.”
“Frankly, this tiny fee isn’t going to make or break you,” Kaufer said. “If you’re serious about selling on Tripadvisor and reaching our massive audience, you’ll make that back in your first booking.”
Kaufer also noted he was open to providing experiences supply to other players, such as Booking.com.
An in-house market research team at Tripadvisor anticipated five stages of tourism impact and recovery. A sharp decline as authorities enforce widespread restrictions will change into a plateau in reservations. The company said many markets are now in an “emerge” stage where there’s been an easing of travel restrictions.
Kaufer said he planned to see through all the phases of the recovery. “I love my job,” he said.
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Photo credit: Shown here is a rooftop view of Bristol Sunset Beach, a vacation rental property in Fuerteventura, Spain, which uses comments shared by its guests on Tripadvisor to help define its improvement points and work on them. Bristol Sunset Beach