tripadvisor costco

Data trends in 2017: TripAdvisor pivot, Costco’s rise and what they mean for the travel industry

This is a viewpoint from Gitit Greenberg, director of digital insights at SimilarWeb.

The digital travel ecosystem is constantly evolving. Key players come and go, and market trends often shift to the unexpected placing of an added emphasis on the need to stay ahead of the curve. 2017 was no different as the year saw the emergence of exciting new players and shifts in the OTA market.

There are two specific events had ramifications that are likely to continue to have a considerable impact on the sector in 2018.

TripAdvisor ditching its new OTA model

Back in late 2014, it was announced that TripAdvisor would be exploring an “instant booking” feature, allowing users to complete their vacation booking on TripAdvisor rather than being directed to various partner sites. The decision presented a significant shift in strategy, and the consequences were critical for sites who had become heavily reliant on the metasearch giant’s traffic.

However, the move to OTA proved to be less valuable than initially expected and in May of 2017, the company decided it would be reverting back to its traditional search-and-send ways.

The pivot is hugely significant as it pushes TripAdvisor back into the role of key referral source. With an average of more than 50 million unique visitors every month in the US alone over the past year, the traffic on offer is a massive opportunity for other travel brands to tap into.

To understand the potential impact of this decision, one only needs to consider the immediate impact of the move on the top 10 companies benefiting from TripAdvisor’s outgoing links. Outbound traffic from TripAdvisor to these 10 brands increased from 46% in December 2016 to 71% in November 2017, with and benefiting the most.

Yet, the consequences of this move go far beyond TripAdvisor alone and could portend a wider industry shakeup. For example, while TripAdvisor increased their referral traffic to, Trivago actually decreased their traffic to, instead directing it to

The competition over the highly valuable TripAdvisor traffic will likely increase, but that could also help brands like Trivago and others identify new partners. The final distribution of the metasearch landscape is a critical component in determining which travel brands will find digital success in 2018, and keeping tabs on those who gain and lose the most from the TripAdvisor pivot will be a key deciding factor.

similarweb trends

Outoing links – US, desktop data, Dec 2016-Nov2017

Costco becomes an all-in-one travel agency

Costco, a major retail brand not normally associated with travel, saw its Costco Travel site hit new heights in 2016, and the move presented an interesting phenomenon.

The membership-only wholesaler entered the OTA industry around the same time as TripAdvisor but continued to expand throughout 2017 due to a large and reliable referral network from…Costco.

While it may not seem surprising that Costco is Costco Travel’s main source for incoming traffic, it has been interesting to see how rapidly the traffic share of referral links to Costco Travel has been increasing. For the past two years, received 98% of its referral traffic from

During this period was the top outgoing link from, and in mid-2017 it made up 52% of all outbound referral visits. Contextually, the numbers are pretty outstanding. In 2016 Costco sent an average of 770K monthly visits to Costco Travel, and in 2017 890K visitors were directed to Costco Travel monthly.

Outgoing links from, US, desktop data, Jan 2016 to Nov 2017

This reality isn’t just a testament to the strength of Costco Travel but to the allure of the lucrative hotel booking sector. Costco was able to grow into a strong online travel player while bypassing the traditional barrier to entry of user acquisition costs. The more success Costco has, the more enticing it will be for other similarly placed companies to test the online travel waters.

Another interesting note is the seamlessness in which a user can move from Costco to Costco Travel, a great benefit for dependent service providers.

No other OTA allows customers to purchase bathing suits, luggage, and other travel essentials. It is apparent that more and more Costco shoppers are interested in Travel offerings, and as their Travel service continues to expand, their marketing efforts should present valuable insights for those looking to transition into the OTA sphere.

This is a viewpoint from Gitit Greenberg, director of digital insights at SimilarWeb.

Opinions and views expressed by all guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of tnooz, its writers, or its partners. Photo by Freddy Marschall on Unsplash

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

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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  1. Michael Tunnicliffe

    After the success of Costco’s venture into travel it’ll be interesting to see which companies will be next to tap into the market. There are retailers that could leverage their existing product offering to present a comprehensive travel vertical for consumers incorporating for example clothing, luggage, insurance. Costco has the benefit of a membership base but email databases could work to provide a pool of potential travel purchasers.

  2. Kevin

    why would anyone be shocked that trivago directed more traffic to expedia than when trivago is owned by expedia? Next you’ll report that priceline sends more traffic to than to Expedia.


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