Skift Take

Even before the pandemic, Tripadvisor faced many challenges monetizing its user base. The travel platform is now turning to more user-friendly subscription models to change that. But will it be able to meet the evolving demands of travelers in a post-Covid world?

Tripadvisor, which just launched a new travel membership program, Tripadvisor Plus, is going all in when it comes to enhancing subscription travel services as its product strategy evolves in a post-pandemic world.

The new beta offering costs about $99 a year and allows for savings on 100,000+ hotels, 10 percent of anything booked in the Tripadvisor Experiences Store, and other perks like early check-in at hotels.

“With the introduction of Plus, we’re doing a ton of merchandising. The strategy is around how do we make it easy for you to find hotels that participate in Plus, how does Tripadvisor make the overall retail shopping experience as natural as possible,” said Lindsay Nelson, Tripadvisor’s chief experience and brand officer, during the Skift Online Travel and Distribution Summit on Wednesday.

The company, which has struggled to capitalize on its user base in the past, sees more opportunity in the user experiences category to overhaul and rethink what a digital retail environment looks like in a post-pandemic world. This is where Tripadvisor will focus its efforts on optimization.

With few competitors to Tripadvisor in this segment of metasearch, Nelson said she believes that the trick now is to redefine what it means to be a travel guidance company in a world where people aren’t sure if they can even travel.

Tripadvisor’s Lindsay Nelson speaks to Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko at Skift’s Online Travel Summit.

Tripadvisor also launched a travel safety initiative in mid-2020 during the height of the pandemic, in which a couple of hundred thousand hotels and restaurants have participated, Nelson told Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko.

“Those [businesses] that participated are seeing more demand, so that shows me that people care about safety now, they care about travel restrictions and boundaries,” she said, adding that the service focused more on the needs of the consumers, rather than the businesses.

But the platform’s new beta subscription product Tripadvisor Plus still presents all kinds of new marketing challenges, such as driving engagement, enjoyment and renewal moments.

The real challenge is packaging the merchandising, such as activities available through Tripadvisor, in a more fun and more user-friendly approach. This means approaching products with a fresh take and being in tune with users’ spontaneous needs, Nelson added.

Like most participants and audience members at Skift’s Online Travel and Distribution Summit, Nelson also believes that metasearch isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

In 2020, Skift said that subscription services would be one of the next big things across the travel industry, and that is indeed the case. There is growing emphasis on subscriptions, with many of them offered to consumers. Tripadvisor’s focus on new offerings further cement that.

Tripadvisor is currently one of the oldest and most successful online travel apps. It is arguably one of the most influential sites in travel from a consumer perspective. Yet it faced challenges monetizing its user base, even before Covid-19. This is the core issue that the company hopes to reimagine in a post-pandemic world.

“People will always want to do price comparisons, ” Nelson told Skift. “I don’t think that’s a reasonable question today. What we’ve totally under-monetized and traditionally not over-served is our most engaged user base, these are the people that are joining Plus, these are the people that are contributing to the platform.”

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Tags: coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, loyalty, metasearch, skift live, subscriptions, tripadvisor

Photo credit: Tripadvisor's chief experience and brand officer Lindsay Nelson spoke to Seth Borko at Skift's Online Travel and Distribution Summit. Tripadvisor

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