Google, Facebook and TripAdvisor on what is next for travel

NB: This is a guest article by Marco Saio, director of global research and projects at EyeforTravel.

Some might argue it’s been a year characterised by game-changing startups, disruptive trends, big investments and leaps in both travel technology and consumer behaviour.

In addition, our fixation with the instant and virtual means that it is becoming increasingly rare for us to ‘look-up’ and to the horizon for the next threat or opportunity that lies ahead for the online travel industry.

Which emerging trends will fizzle, and which will pop?

What is the most significant opportunity (or critical threat) that our industry faces? Which disruptive forces will reshape the online travel landscape as we know it in the next few years?


We asked some of the leading lights at Facebook, Google, and TripAdvisor what they think are the supposed “next big things” for the online travel industry?

Rohit Dhawan, lead product manager at Facebook

At Facebook, we’re really seeing that the web is being rebuilt around people – everything is becoming more social.

What used to be an information web where people sought to find the “what” has really shifted to a social web where people are looking to find the “who?”

Today, there are more Facebook profile pages than there are web pages.  This social web really means that people are at the centre of marketing – in all industries, including travel

There is now an even greater opportunity for marketers to create an on-going, two-way dialogue between their brands and their customers.

Because of this connection, we’re seeing that businesses can now achieve effective word-of-mouth marketing at scale for the first time.

We’ve always known that the best recommendations come from your own friends – and now businesses can leverage this natural word-of-mouth using the suite of marketing tools that Facebook has to offer – including ads, pages, sponsored stories, and social plugins.

Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer at TripAdvisor

1. Travel is becoming more social

People are using technology and social networks to tap into the wisdom of friends to make good travel decisions.

We are spending a lot of energy at TripAdvisor facilitating these connections between friends as we think seeing travel advice from your friends is incredibly valuable.

2. The travel category is changing (dramatically) with mobile.

Mobile is incredibly exciting – and changing both the travel planning period and the in-trip experience.

Particularly during the in-trip experience there is still a ton of opportunity to make the traveler better informed, allow her to find the right restaurants & attractions tailored to her interests and time, and even provide special location-based features that can only be delivered via mobile.

If only we can get rid of those pesky roaming fees for international trips!

3. The power (and omnipresence) of the review

While TripAdvisor has for over a decade believed that the wisdom of our reviewers helps other travelers have the best trips, we’ve recently seen that the hotel industry has also embraced the benefits of reviews and the importance of that content to their social reputation.

You once had to search hard to find hotel reviews outside of TripAdvisor, and now nearly every OTA has reviews in their hotel path, hotel chains are displaying reviews on their supplier-direct sites, and even Google has begun to collect reviews.

With TripAdvisor having over 45 million visitors last month reading some of our 50 million reviews and opinions, we know reviews are essential to consumers in the travel-planning process.

4. Green-friendly and sustainable travel are gaining importance

Travelers want to know more about the green practices and environmental reputation of the hotels, and travelers seek to understand whether the hotel is part of the problem or the solution in promoting better environment practices.

And a growing set of travelers want to see how their tourism dollars are benefiting the local community in certain destinations.

Rob Torres, Head of Travel, Google

1. Aggressive consumer adoption of the mobile platform as a booking vehicle for travel

The growing adoption of web-enabled mobile devices is revolutionizing how many companies do business.

Travel brands have an opportunity to take advantage of this trend.

  • The number of mobile users researching travel is expected to grow 51% in 2012.
  • 34% of all US smartphone users research from their mobile device
  • 23% of all international travelers use mobile check-in for flights
  • By 2012 18% of mobile users will also book from their smart device.

2. 2009 all over again…

Travel shoppers will continue to search for deals and discounts at record levels.

In 2012 consumers will again be willing to invest more time in the research process in order to save money – they will look for the best deals they can find, to get the most bang for their buck.

Flash sale sites will continue to flourish….especially in the travel space.

3. Product innovation will emerge for the first time since the entrance of OTAs in the late 90’s.

When you look across the phases of the travel cycle – Dreaming, Researching, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing – the potential for innovation, particularly in the early stages of dreaming and researching is astounding.

In 2012 you will see quite a few travel startups emerge that attempt to capitalize on this opportunity.

NB: This is a guest article by Marco Saio, director of global research and projects at EyeforTravel.

NB2: Google, TripAdvisor and Facebook are scheduled to present at the Travel Distribution Summit North America 2011 in Las Vegas, on 19-20 September.

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A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  3. Kate

    Good article. Travel is definitely becoming more social, as both Rohit from Facebook and Barbara from TripAdvisor pointed out. Travelers seem to be seeking out connections with each other and with local people at every stage of the travel cycle – relying on each other for inspiration, tips and authentic travel experiences.

    Social travel sites like and seem to be part of this disruptive trend – rather than turning to experts, travelers are creating their own unique experiences with the help of friends and other travelers. My bet is that the online travel space is undergoing a huge transformation and will never be the same.

  4. Jim Ken

    I completely agree with Mr.Rohit Dhawan said, Facebook provide us the facility of Ads, Pages, Sponsored stories, and Social Plugins for promoting our business in front of the social world.

  5. Nick

    Social travel is already happening in a big way and will only grow bigger but I think there is a more interesting theme underneath all of that:
    Sucesses like Airbnb in the US show people’s willingness to share their appartments / homes to make or save money.
    Other companies in Europe like in the UK or covoiturage in France have demonstrated a working model for long distance carpooling enabling people to share rides.
    So today, you can already rent someone’s seats in a car to go to your destination and then you can rent someones house/rent when you are there. All of that without using any traditional way of transport or accomodation!

    However, I think the real theme behind payers like airbnb, blablacar or relayride is not really social travel… it is “asset-less travel” as the common demoninator is to leverage idle assets. That might be the future of travel…

  6. Smith

    There are millions of people on Facebook who are mostly there to chat, gossip, find out who is getting engaged, married, divorced etc etc. I am yet to be convinced that people go there to buy a product. Trip Advisor is clearly focused for travel and the forum posts do swap research and information. But many of these forum link referrals send people away to another site where the information is specific. So many thanks to Trip Advisor and Facebook for generating the traffic, so all that social interaction sends people somewhere else!

  7. Jeremy Acklam

    Interesting…the future of travel as far as facebook is concerned is person-to-person, it’s reviews for TripAdvisor and for Google, it’s mobile. So the radical future is to continue to do what they are doing now? It sounds like these larger companies are now behaving like corporates, which should clear the way for smaller companies to generate radical alternatives!

  8. linda

    my concern with taking advice from friends who may not be knowledgeable about market options or destination experiences is like “the blind, leading the blind”..i am a 30 year veteran of the travel industry with over 100 countries visited and i cant believe
    some of the reviews i read on these sites…imagine going to fiji
    or bora bora and commenting on the presence of “insects” …sad.

  9. Jim Kovarik

    sounds like:
    1) Mobile 2) Social 3) Deals or… 1) Social 2) Mobile 3) Deals

    in any event, agree on all fronts. FYI Yipit just released data showing that Travel is now the third largest category in the daily deals space, representing 15% of industry rev (see below via TechCrunch)

    But perhaps the biggest winner in the daily space were “travel deals” sites, which continued to expand in July, accounting for six of the top 10 deals in July — and became the third-largest daily deal category, with travel deals accounting for six of the top 10 deals and nearly 15 percent of the industry’s revenue.

  10. Pete Meyers

    “Today, there are more Facebook profile pages than there are web pages.”

    Doesn’t one Facebook profile page = one web page? Or is there a mobile profile element I’m missing?

  11. Heddi

    Really great article – nice to know that the validation from these highly respected people and their amazing companies gives a good direction of what’s to come. I’m especially interested in Rob Torres comment in #3 about ‘dreaming and researching.’ We see this a LOT at primarily on the trip planning. Users are setting multi trips (same dates) to save/be gifted and we’re gauging that they’re weighting up the pros/cons of each destination. Either way, the inspiration or ‘dreaming’ factor is kicking in quite fast & that is our objective (let users exceed their own expectations). Also agree with Barbara about roaming fees – causing a crux in a social development! And naturally Rohit focuses on social because this is absolutely now integrated into everyday travel – any start up not including social just hung themselves 🙂

  12. Samuel

    I agree with Barbara Messing. People are using technology and social networks to tap into the wisdom of friends to make good travel decisions. I always take travel recommendations from friends more seriously and I’m sure many other travelers do the same.


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