Image: Steve Kaufer – TripAdvisor president and chief executive
TripAdvisor boss Steve Kaufer remains hopeful major that OTAs will decide to participate with its Instant Book service, saying he believes it is a great opportunity.
The world’s largest travel review site has started offering users the opportunity to make a booking without leaving TripAdvisor, in addition to its price comparison service.
However, the larger online agencies, including the two biggest; Expedia and Booking.com parent Priceline, have so far refused to integrate with it.
Kaufer said it remains to be seen whether compromises it was willing to make would convince the OTAs.
“Instant Booking changes every week. As some changes happen maybe some big OTAs will say it looks a bit more like what we want to participate in.
“If there are things [they would like] that we feel won’t help the consumer we will stick to where we are now.”
Kaufer said there are OTAs who see Instant Book as a “fabulous opportunity”. “We are doing integration with them shortly and will be launching with them,” he said.
“OTAs are each entitled to make their own decisions. We are committed to our Instant Booking path.”
In a previous session at Phocuswright, Expedia boss Dara Khosrowshahi indicated Instant Book could turn out to be a “dumb pipe” for Expedia, while the Booking.com chief executive also expressed doubts.
Kaufer said the leading OTAs were “phenomenally good partners” for metasearch and their participation with Instant Book would be beneficial.
“They [OTAs] are getting premium branding all the way through the flow. We are saying this transaction is powered by the OTA. We reinforce this property is booked through OTA A, B or C.”
For hotels he said there was an opportunity to gain more direct access to TripAdvisor’s traffic, drive direct sales and target customers with better personalised deals.
Kaufer said that because the customer is individually identified and an email address or credit card details passed on, there was no prohibition over what the hotel or OTA can do with that customer.
“I genuinely believe it’s a matter of time before all the hotel chains adopt this new paradigm from us,” he said.
Explaining the thinking behind Instant Book, Kaufer said it was all about taking some of the pain points out of the customer experience.
“We had to develop a better experience and that’s what led to Instant Book.
“All the content TripAdvisor has and all the ability to solve consumers’ challenges finding the right property and then we say finish then rest of the process somewhere else.
“There is a chunk of consumers who want to finish the booking on TripAdvisor. It came from what customers were looking for.
“We would watch customers go through the meta experience but still it was a click off to another site and they were lost.
“We saw people getting confused and not finishing the experience the way we would want.”
TripAdvisor has brought in a commission model for Instant Book, where a payment is only charged once a booking is made, as opposed to a cost per click model for meta-search.
However, it does not handle the payment itself, but just facilitates it.
“We do not want to be an OTA,” said Kaufer.