When TripAdvisor introduces something new, inns and hotels watch closely. Why? With over 260 million visitors a month, 3.1 million business listings* and millions of reviews on tripadvisor.com, TripAdvisor is clearly a major player in the hospitality industry. With TripConnectTM, TripAdvisor is looking to capitalize on its brand and technologies to drive more business to your booking engine.
The core of TripAdvisor has changed and that is big news.
One of the keys to Tripadvisor.com has always been to organize and list businesses by rank, based on the number and quality of guest reviews. If you were the highest ranked inn you enjoyed the top of the page. But things are changing. Once guests enter a check-in and check-out date, inns are listed in order but also based on whether they show availability.
Let’s take a look at Santa Fe, New Mexico on TripAdvisor. At the start all the inns are listed in order. Click on “Show Prices” and enter a check-in and check-out dates. At least at the time of writing this article the list doesn’t go #1, #2, #3, etc. It skips over #1 and #3 which are lower on the page way at the bottom; well below inns that have rates via Expedia, Booking.com, TripConnect, etc. Why? Notice that they only have links that say “Contact accommodation for availability”. These inns are not sharing their availability with TripAdvisor.
What does this mean? Just like before inns are ranked by order, but now if you don’t share your availability with TripAdvisor, you may not be in the normal numbered order once a guest starts checking availability. With gathering and displaying availability and rates, the core of TripAdvisor is changing.
These are big changes and understanding them is important to your hospitality business.
——- What is TripConnect and How Does it Work? ——-
Last year TripAdvisor started contacting inns, hotels, software vendors and associations to tell them about TripConnect. The messaging to inns was that TripAdvisor could provide a direct link to an inn’s booking engine if they could gain access to their rates and availability.
To reservation software vendors like ResNexus, Buuteeq, RezStream, Rezovation, ResKey, etc. there was the invitation to integrate with TripAdvisor through their new TripConnect. Integrating would communicate rates and availability to TripAdvisor for any mutual client.
Looking closely, in a way, TripConnect makes you bid against yourself. Let’s look at the example from TripAdvisor in the picture below which is modified so that the guest looking at the sample listing can either book direct using the inn’s online reservation system or book through Expedia.com or Booking.com.
The pay-per-click campaigns will determine the order of these three options. Notice that the direct method is listed first even though it is a higher rate.
This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the innkeeping industry. It might work for the hotel paradigm where they pay to be on dozens of booking websites.
Bottom line, if you don’t use booking websites like Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com, etc. then what you really need TripConnect for is to share your availability so that an “Official Site” option appears on your listing and guests can book directly from your online booking engine from tripadvisor.com.
——- Possible Benefits from TripConnect ——-
With the big changes to TripAdvisor, what are some of the possible benefits?
MORE POTENTIAL RESERVATIONS – In the past tripadvisor.com visitors could read reviews about your property and then click on a link to visit your website if you paid for a TripAdvisor business subscription. The link was small and didn’t stand out. Now TripAdvisor can link directly to your booking engine in a more intuitive and inviting manner. This direct link to your booking engine also reduces an extra step towards a potential online reservation.
In addition, TripAdvisor users no longer need to drill into each website looking for an inn with availability. When you are full, guests will look elsewhere and vice versa.
ELEVATES THE INDUSTRY – TripAdvisor requiring an internet booking engine will help elevate the bed and breakfast industry as a whole by encouraging inns to move to more modern real-time reservation systems. A surprising number of inns still don’t offer direct online bookings from their website but still use outdated “form requests” off of their website.
MORE COMPETITION AMONG TRAVEL WEBSITES – Previously TripAdvisor asked for about $400 a year to link back to the inn’s website. Now TripAdvisor is asking a lot more and bed and breakfasts and inns have limited marketing funds. How will bedandbreakfast.com, another key player in the innkeeping industry, respond?
Hopefully, via natural competition, travel websites will have to compete and reduce commissions, fees and membership dues. The bed and breakfast industry has seen commission rates from big name booking websites like Expedia go down recently due to natural competition. TripAdvisor is a big player and is changing the game significantly with TripConnect.
——- What to Watch for? ——-
THE COST – The biggest question about TripConnect is the cost and what do you get for that investment. First you must sign up with TripAdvisor for a business listing subscription which starts at $40 a month. “Starts at” in our opinion always feels like a bait and switch and with TripAdvisor when you sign up the cost is based off of several factors that are not published such as your location and market. Many inns (see comments) have reported they were asked to pay $1200+ a year during the sign up process, not $40 x 12 = $480. Others have reported the price goes up from year to year (see comments).
Second you need to share your availability with TripAdvisor by signing up for a TripConnect pay-per-click campaign. Does pay-per-click determine your overall ranking? From comments on this post and online information from TripAdvisor the answer is no. But if you only want to have guests go directly to your online booking engine, one can ask “Why do I even need to pay for a pay-per-click campaign?” Bottom line TripAdvisor wants to receive a commission each time a guests clicks on the direct link to your online booking engine.
So the obvious recommendation if you just want to offer direct online bookings, just pay the minimum pay-per-click bid. One can wonder if inns couldn’t ask Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com, etc. not to share their availability with TripAdvisor so that booking direct is the only option and their pay-per-click bid would be lower?
On this new version of TripAdvisor, the big question is: WILL allowing guests to go directly to your booking engine significantly TRUMP guests going to your website? Going from a link (website) to a button (Official Site) and with the number of hits tripadvisor.com receives, you should in theory see an increase in reservations immediately, especially during the upcoming peak booking seasons (Valentine’s, summer vacation, etc.).
The pay-per-click model definitely will profit TripAdvisor, but will it be a solid enough return on investment for the inn? Inns were and are still receiving untracked leads from TripAdvisor as guests visit tripadvisor.com and then visit that business’ website. Signing up for TripConnect and getting a lot of reservations from TripAdvisor doesn’t necessary mean you weren’t getting most of those leads before.
A big question is why didn’t TripAdvisor go with a more traditional results-driven, commission-based fee structure? It would be nice to only pay a commission on actual online reservations resulting from TripAdvisor’s efforts, not for each click.
A few years ago LivingSocial and Groupons were the buzz around the innkeeping industry because they could easily fill up an inn. But often by the time the discounts and fees were applied many inns experienced very slim profits and some even found themselves unexpectedly in the red.
Is TripConnect yet another hot topic that helps the provider but drains the coffers of the innkeeping industry? In a future article we will be doing a case study and posting results from TripConnect users on both the number of bookings and the cost per reservation.
DOUBLE COMMISSIONS – Looking over some of the properties on TripAdvisor that sign up for travel websites like Expedia and Booking.com, TripAdvisor displays pricing for each booking option. That business in theory will have to pay both TripAdvisor for the click and travel website the guest booked through.
INTEGRATION DELAYS – Some of the key software providers in the innkeeping industry like ResNexus, ResKey, RezStream and AvailibilityOnline have integrated. Many of the other major players in the innkeeping industry like Rezovation, Webervations, SuperInn, Buuteeq, etc. haven’t integrated with TripConnect as of this article.
The development costs to any reservation company are significant and TripAdvisor is not offering any shared revenue to help cover any short term and long term costs. This is out of the ordinary since when these companies integrate with Expedia, Travelocity, GDS, etc., they receive commissions to help cover their expenses. Long integration delays can probably be expected since there are no incentives to these companies. Also with no financial incentive these software providers most likely won’t be highly motivated to push or promote TripConnect.
——- How to get started? ——-
Now that you understand a little more about TripConnect from TripAdvisor, let’s move on to learn how to sign up for TripConnect.
Click to read about “How to Create a TripConnect Campaign”.