tripadvisor meta1
655 days ago
 

TripAdvisor tests hotel metasearch service – now the fun really begins

User review giant TripAdvisor is finally doing what pretty much everyone involved in the hotel sector expected it to do years ago – consumer metasearch for its vast portfolio of properties.

The company confirmed this week that it is currently testing “new search functionality” for hotels, covering both desktop and mobile versions of the service.

Randomly selected users have been able to see the new platform in action over the course of the past two months, but there is no time-line as yet when it will be fully deployed and available to rest of the site’s massive user-base.

Functionality mirrors many of the other hotel metasearch services around the web, with availability and prices for properties based on arrival and departure dates, and location.

A string of filters are also included in the navigation, including price, property type, chain, as well as being able to drill down on the type of hotel it is most suited to.

This is where the army of existing reviews on TripAdvisor kicks in, with the ability to filter results not only by the overall rating by users but also by whether it is ideal for business travellers, families or those looking for a luxury or romantic stay.

Holiday rentals are also included in the platform and the Trip Friends functionality so users can see immediately if any of their Facebook friends have stayed in a property listed or elsewhere in a destination.

Similar to many other metasearch engines, users can also switch to a map view.

An official says:

“TripAdvisor is always looking at ways to improve the user experience and we’re constantly experimenting with new features and functionality to help travelers plan and have the perfect trip.

“The enhancement allows users to see hotel pricing options at a room level detail and availability from our booking partners, all on one page.”

Details are a bit flaky as to the commercial proposition with TripAdvisor’s project – links for booking a property currently only appear to flow to online travel agencies at present. TripAdvisor has yet to say if this will extend to supplier websites.

It will, however, say that feedback from the user will “determine if and how the new search functionality will be rolled out to all users”.

Perhaps the only surprise with all this is that it has taken TripAdvisor so long to turn its attention to providing a fully-fledged metasearch platform to users.

It launched a flight search tool in 2009 but has rarely mentioned the service ever since, with the focus being on expanding its hotel review empire and adding new elements such as vacation rental, tours and activities, and the Trip Friends functionality.

But free from its Expedia-ownership and with the metasearch marketplace altering dramatically over the course of the past 12 months, as online travel agencies have snapped up search brands (Kayak to Priceline) or invested heavily in others (Expedia with Trivago and Room 77), clearly the time is right.

This all comes in to further focus when viewed through the prism of the continued roll-out and enhancements to Google’s Hotel Finder.

What TripAdvisor has that every other travel site on the planet does not is a user base that currently accounts for 60 million unique visitors every month.

Just a fraction of those using the new TripAdvisor metasearch service could be enough to send dozens of smaller sites searching frantically for the pivot guide.

Details are likely to emerge in the coming months as to whether the testing is successful or not (it is not exactly clear as to what would trigger a negative result for the pilot service), but it is almost guaranteed that a heavyweight player such as TripAdvisor, with its huge success in SEO, brand recognition and captive audience, will not give up the opportunity to seriously disrupt the hotel search marketplace.

 
 
Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.

He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.

 

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  1. James

    Another great article Kevin. It’s really interesting to see what the big brands are doing with Graph Search.
    Also, good to see you’re connected to our very own MD, Ian Brooks while doing your screenshots!

     
  2. Fionafew

    I find it interesting that I have been seeing this as a “customer” over the last few weeks whilst searching for hotels in India. It is very nice and helpful in searching, however there are some glitches – some places disappeared when I checked for specific criteria, even though I know they had the facilities. So, maybe not fully functional yet, or something is amiss…

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @fionafew – thx for the comment.

      Suspect it is not fully functional yet, certainly lots of testing going on a no clear date for when a fully baked product will be unleashed to the rest of the TA user base.

       
  3. Raj Chudasama

    As hotel markets are saturated with different brands it’s going to be tougher for each individual hotel stand out in the online space. It’s very confusing for a hotel owner to know where to focus their online marketing dollars, PPC, OTA PPC, Google Hotel Finder, TripAdvisor business listing, their own website, brand.com.

    Hotel companies have tried to combat this through Roomkey.com but I’m not sure how successful that has been yet. Although Tripadvisor already has so much traffic that I’m sure they will be a major, if not top, player in this space.

    Hotel owners will need to come up with new strategies on how to drive or keep customers booking on brand.com.

     
  4. @trackingjoed

    Trip Advisor has opened their new Meta product up to direct suppliers in the US though it will take time for suppliers to get started. Unfortunately direct suppliers can’t participate until they build APIs that send Trip Advisor updated information on property pricing and availability. This will be cost prohibitive to small suppliers. Large and small suppliers should also expect minimum participation costs to increase as this product matures.

    Google’s launch of Hotel Price Ads is a key reason Trip Advisor can be so bold with pricing and API demands. Since referral traffic is becoming more expansive from Google, OTAs need to look elsewhere for cheap traffic. Trip Advisor’s new Meta experience benefits OTAs who have robust APIs. TA will push more traffic to the Meta experience and eventually change minimum advertising prices based on test results that only include OTAs part of the initial experiment. It’s clear who’s business they are most interested in.

     
  5. Jason

    Kevin thanks for the article, any chance you can get a screenshot of what the “The enhancement allows users to see hotel pricing options at a room level detail and availability from our booking partners, all on one page.” actually looks like? I am not one of the lucky few that can see it in Beta mode, still stuck in 2002 pop-up land.

    thanks.

     
    • Martin Rusteberg

      http://i.imgur.com/L9X7A.png – interesting to see how they are highlighting the top position and encouraging people to click on to the other advertiser websites.

      another nice feature is the mouseover, breaking down the nightly rate, taxes and total stay cost.

       
  6. RobertKCole

    There will be very high demand from hotels for direct booking capability. Understand that most hoteliers complain about the comparatively high price of TripAdvisors’s Business Listings that allow the hotel to include its phone number, emal address and a link to its website. However, virtually all I have spoken with say that the traffic from the paid listings convert very well and that they find the business listing also helps the conversion rate for hotel’s direct link from the “Show Prices” PPC link. The PPC conversion rates and ROI are compelling and generally regarded as far superior to Google Adwords.

    I have long insisted that “Validation ” is a distinct step in the seven-step travel process and TripAdvisor has a huge opportunity to integrate its commanding dominance over the validation phase with the booking phase that immediately follows.

    Kayak’s acquisition by Priceline may create a bit of hesitancy for the other OTAs participating in Kayak, so they will certainly be looking for a other ttractive metasearch opportunities. But the real key will be courting the hotels for direct booking capability and cutting out the middle man…

    If TripAdvisor plays this smartly (I’ve always said Steven Kaufer is one of the smartest guys in travel, so there’s no reason to believe they won’t,) they should be able to produce a Kayak-style integrated results page, as well as the traditional checkbox/popup window links. One would think that TripAdvisor can intelligently set compensation at a level that is less expensive for the hotel than a comparable OTA booking, but is higher for TripAdvisor than the revenue share provided by the OTAs.

    Better yet for TripAdvisor, Kayak prominently highlights TripAdvisor’s ratings and offers a link to TripAdvisor to “see all reviews” for a hotel. This latest move may not only show that Kaufer is one of the smartest guys in the industry, but also one of the most patient…

     
    • Michal W

      “There will be very high demand from hotels for direct booking capability. Understand that most hoteliers complain about the comparatively high price of TripAdvisors’s Business Listings that allow the hotel to include its phone number, emal address and a link to its website.”
      > That’s correct – I think this is where Tripadvisor can make a difference. Another milestone in getting rid of the traditionnal OTA middleman. The future is about platforms that allow non-commissioned or direct booking.
      On the other hand the validation process is something that evolves, too. I believe it is not going to be only about reviews, but overall, at the end about “the experience” of previous travelers.

       
 
 

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