Jay Karen, the president and CEO of the 2000-member Professional Association of Innkeepers International, acknowledges that there are mixed feelings among bed & breakfast owners over the fees for TripAdvisor's new Business Listings, but he thinks owners should "throw $300 [the promotional rate] at this."
For the first time, beginning Jan. 4, innkeepers and hotels can list their URLs, phone numbers and e-mails for a flat annual fee within their property displays on TripAdvisor so consumers can navigate directly to the properties' websites.
The annual fee is $600 for properties with 10 rooms or less -- meaning most B&Bs -- but it is half that price for properties which sign up in by the end of January 2010.
TripAdvisor President and CEO Stephen Kaufer appeared at the PAII's New England Innkeeping Show in Nashua, N.H., Nov. 17, on the day the Business Listings program was announced.
Karen, who has lobbied TripAdvisor since November 2008 for direct listings, thinks TripAdvisor may take in $1.5 million from the program in the first year if 3,000 of the roughly 16,000 U.S. B&Bs sign on at an average fee of $500.
And, that $1.5 million counts just U.S.-based B&Bs. TripAdvisor's new advertising program may turn into a much larger revenue stream because it will be available to properties on all of its global websites.
Here are details about the TripAdvisor U.K. program, for instance.
Karen says there are "a lot of mixed feelings about the price tag" since most innkeepers don't spend $600 annually to advertise with one vendor. Many will take a wait-and-see attitude toward the program, he says.
But Karen thinks it is a worthwhile program, especially at the $300 introductory rate.
Introducing URLs, phone numbers and e-mails will enable properties for the first time to eliminate the guesswork and track how much website traffic they are getting from TripAdvisor, Karen says.
Today, consumers might use an intermediary to book a property on TripAdvisor, and some may open another browser and search for the inn, but the booking may get lost along the way, Karen says.
With the direct links, "you can make a judgment about the value of TripAdvisor if you know that 30% of your traffic is from TripAdvisor," Karen says.
TripAdvisor states that direct contact lisings will be placed, "At the top of your hotel page under your property address and above the Check Rates box. They will appear above the fold."
But, one gripe that Karen has with the program's implementation is that it's his understanding that the direct contact information will not be given any special prominence within the property display on TripAdvisor.
In other words, the font is expected to look the same as the address listing here for the Quality Inn Northlake in Atlanta, Ga.
Karen would have rather seen the Business Listing say something like "Go to the website" or other terminology to give the direct contact information more punch.
Still, he thinks Business Listings will be "worthwhile" for B&Bs, especially at the introductory rate, and if the program works out well for inns and TripAdvisor, then perhaps the PAII and other inns will have more influence with TripAdvisor.
Says Karen: "My hope is that they will listen to us even more."