Skift Take

In football or soccer — pick your sport/analogy — sometimes it takes a new coach to get momentum. Under its new CEO, Tripadvisor is making significant changes to its core products.

What will the new Tripadvisor look like? CEO Matt Goldberg, on the job since July, laid out the vision and some of the early results as part of the company’s first quarter earnings announcement.

Discussing the quarter with financial analysts Thursday, Goldberg said “today we monetize only a fraction of our audience, largely through our hotel meta offering.”

He said the company is the world’s leading travel guidance platform and is making changes to improve planning tools — and eventually they may incorporate generative AI — and introducing new formats to increase monetization and user engagement. Tripadvisor has been pairing recommendations from experts with advice from travelers.

“So we’ve made some changes to the app home page to make it more effective and bring users into the experience, elevating the search bar, being more deliberate about driving qualified traffic, because in the end, it’s really about giving the consumer that experience that translates to engagement, that will deliver a highly qualified traveler to our partners and really drive monetization,” Goldberg said.

Although these are early days, Goldberg said Tripadvisor is seeing higher click-through rates, a reduction in bounce rates, “and double-digit improvements on review completion and photo submissions, all fundamental areas for our strategy going forward.”

Some of the product changes were the largest in five years, Goldberg said.

Some of this relates to what Tripadvisor calls its core segment, which includes its hotel metasearch auction, its media business including sponsored placements, as well as Tripadvisor experiences and Tripadvisor restaurant reservations, which are distinct from what its own Viator and TheFork offer in experiences and dining, respectively.

Goldberg discussed the strategies for its three segments, Tripadvisor Core, Viator and TheFork, and why Tripadvisor offers experiences under both the Tripadvisor and Viator brands.

He said Tripadvisor experiences and Viator tours and activities are complementary, but the company positions itself overall as a guidance platform so consumers who book Tripadvisor experiences tend to come earlier in the trip-planning stage — higher in the marketing funnel — than those who visit Viator. Tripadvisor visitors mainly book experiences merely as one element of a trip. Viator customers, on the other hand, usually are more focused on reserving an experience only.

Viator has been conducting an elevated marketing campaign, and is focusing on increasing brand awareness and encouraging repeat business. Its 105 percent revenue growth in the first quarter to $115 million, was the standout in the Tripadvisor segment stable, although its losses widened 50 percent to negative $30 million in the first quarter. Viator generated margin improvement in the first quarter, however.

Goldberg was likewise bullish on its mostly European-based dining reservations brand, TheFork, despite headwinds from civil unrest in France. “In TheFork, we’re driving healthy growth with significant margin improvement this year by delivering value to both diners and restaurants in the European dining market,” he said.

When it came to the hot-button issue of generative AI, Goldberg’s remarks were mostly aspirational rather than announcing any specific product releases.

“I’m particularly excited about the work we’re currently progressing at the intersection of trip planning and generative AI,” Goldberg said. “What sets us apart in the industry is our relationship of trust with travelers. We understand that travel decisions are complex and good advice is hard to find. And we believe that we’re uniquely positioned to bring together our large asset of proprietary first-party data and authentic content with best-in-class large language models and embed them in the tools travelers need to fully plan itineraries end to end.”

He responded to an analyst about the dangers of other companies scraping Tripadvisor’s content for their own generative AI products.

“We’re going to iterate and learn,” Goldbert said. “And I think that — when we think about our content, we have choices about who gets to crawl and index our content and under what terms. And so we’ll always be thinking about how to take the content that we have that’s valuable and make sure that we are rewarded for it in the right way.”

The Numbers

Tripadvisor saw its revenue grow 42 percent in the first quarter to $371 million. It notched a net loss of $73 million, which was driven by a one-time $55 million tax settlement and related costs.

The company’s free cash flow increased 65 percent to $119 million, as of March 31.


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Tags: artificial intelligence, earnings, experiences, hotels, matt goldberg, restaurants, thefork, tours and activities, tripadvisor, viator

Photo credit: Tripadvisor CEO Matt Goldberg is making significant product tweaks to the company's core business.

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