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 is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has 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, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.