TripAdvisor has denied acting as an online travel agent (OTA) by allowing mobile customers to book hotels on its site.
Travel reviews site TripAdvisor introduced a hotel booking option for mobile users in the US last year and has started taking mobile bookings in the UK.
The company now plans to expand the facility across Europe.
Yet TripAdvisor territory manager for Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Tom Breckwoldt insisted: “We are not becoming an OTA.”
Speaking at German trade show ITB in Berlin, Breckwoldt said: “You can book on TripAdvisor, but we are not managing the booking. We transfer it [to the hotel].”
He said: “TripConnect is designed for hoteliers. Bookings are transferred to the hotel system. The hotels own the traveller and are able to communicate with the traveller.
“The payment is done on the hotel side as well.”
Breckwoldt told Travolution sister publication Travel Weekly: “We receive a commission [on bookings] but we believe there is a clear line between who is the merchant and who isn’t.
“As a hotel, if you get a booking you pay TripAdvisor. If the OTA gets a booking, it’s an OTA booking.”
He explained: “We have three models [for hotels]. One is business listings, one is TripConnect which gives live availability and transfers a consumer to the [hotel] site, and one is TripConnect instant booking, where the consumer stays on TripAdvisor to complete the booking. But we give the booking to the hotel.
“We want to remove the friction of the small screen, and we want it to be quick. We offer a choice.”
However, analyst Vassilis Syropoulos, director of Juyo Analytics, said: “I see TripAdvisor as an OTA. Who the consumer is paying – these are technicalities. TripAdvisor is an OTA.”
A TripAdvisor spokeswoman confirmed: “This [instant booking] is 100% live in mobile in the US and we have started to do a small proportion of bookings on mobile in the UK. We will extend it and roll it out in Europe.”
Travel search and comparison site Kayak also started accepting hotel bookings via mobile devices last year.
Kayak chief executive Steve Hafner said: “Users can complete a booking within Kayak. We don’t process the credit card or take the booking, we just pass it on. The hotel acquires the customer, we just provide the ‘feel’.”