Skift Take

Subscriptions were supposed to be the next big thing in travel. It hasn't worked out that way. eDreams Odigeo's program seems to be doing well, but most of the others are struggling.

The obituary for the Tripadvisor Plus subscription plan, which offered hotel and experiences discounts in exchange for a $99 annual fee, was all but written more than two years ago.

That’s when the reluctance of big hotel chains to to undercut the rates on their own websites for lower ones in Tripadvisor Plus forced Tripadvisor to abandon the business model. It had initially hoped to get hotels to furnish their discounted rates: Hotels would gain customers and Tripadvisor wouldn’t take a commission.

But Tripadvisor officially confirmed the program’s demise on Friday.

“We’ve taken the decision to end our Tripadvisor Plus program,” a spokesperson said. “Tripadvisor Plus was born out of our culture of innovation, and we now have a deeper understanding of our community’s preferences around benefits and rewards. Armed with this knowledge, we are better equipped than ever to innovate and refine our approach to membership. We’re grateful to all the Plus subscribers who have been on this journey with us and have helped us move towards an even more impactful and engaging experience for our community.”

Tripadvisor Plus subscribers whose plan ends after April 15, 2024 will receive a prorated refund.

High Hopes for Tripadvisor Plus

In the early days of Tripadvisor Plus, the company touted it as having a “multibillion dollar revenue potential.” Some analysts were bullish on the program: They hoped it would reinvigorate the company after years of Google Hotels taking market share.

“You could think of it (Tripadvisor) as we serve 1 billion travelers a year,” then CEO Steve Kaufer told financial analysts in February 2021. “And if — I have to say this carefully — but if it’s only 10 million that sign up for Tripadvisor Plus, that’s still less than 1% of our annual traffic. But 10 million sign-ups times $100, and obviously, the math works pretty nicely in a recurring subscription revenue.”

One issue with Tripadvisor Plus was that the discounted hotel rates it offered were designed to be shown behind a paywall so that only members of the subscription program could view them. But Tripadvisor instead exposed those hotel discounts to the public because it needed to get more people to enroll.

That angered hotels and doomed the program. Another factor was that hotels, bent on attracting direct traffic to their own websites, were reluctant to build up the Tripadvisor brand through Tripadvisor Plus.

The Matt Goldberg Regime

After Matt Goldberg replaced Kaufer as CEO on July 1, 2022, he wouldn’t rule out revitalizing Tripadvisor Plus. The company undoubtably tested new versions of it — without heavily marketing Tripadvisor Plus.

The company may have new membership programs in mind. A spokesperson said that Tripadvisor Plus helped Tripadvisor “refine our approach to membership.”

View Skift Head of Research Seth Borko interviewing then-Tripadvisor CEO Steve Kaufer at Skift Global Forum 2021 in New York City about Tripadvisor Plus.

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Tags: matt goldberg, steve kaufer, subscriptions, tripadvisor, tripadvisor plus

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