TripAdvisor is embarking on a major strategy to woo providers of tours and activities to the platform, with promises of direct sales to consumers.
Existing operators that are members of TripAdvisor For Business programme have been invited to join the Viator Marketplace in order to "turn your TripAdvisor views into paying customers".
The reality is that the "direct sales" element of the pitch is actually making sure operators sign up to Viator - the intermediary bought for $200 million last summer - and feature their products there.
Still, any existing TripAdvisor listing for an attraction that signs up for the programme will now find themselves with a "Book Now" button on the site, leading to a redirect to the relevant Viator landing page.
(Note the new "Viator by TripAdvisor" logo)
In some respects, this gradual move to combine the Viator model into the wider TripAdvisor platform is an obvious one - TripAdvisor hardly spent $200 million on Viator to park it elsewhere within the portfolio as a standalone service.
But some tours and activities agencies similar to Viator are concerned over what they argue is a strategy which has seen them (and competitive pricing) locked out, despite TripAdvisor claiming generally to be an unbiased platform for consumers to find traveller information.
Prior to the acquisition last year, TripAdvisor allowed three intermediaries (Viator, GetYourGuide and former owner, Expedia) to have an affiliate deal on the site for bookings on attractions.
These agreements ended pretty quickly after the acquisition. Customers with an account through Business Listings continue to have a link to their own website included on their respective TripAdvisor pages.
The irritation, some operator sources tell us, is that even if they find Viator's commission model unfavourable, they have no choice but to take part if they want to be able to get the booking functionality on their own attraction's page on TripAdvisor.
The potential pipeline of customers, as TripAdvisor says its marketing materials to users, could be sizeable for any attraction given that it now has some 280 million visitors a month.
A TripAdvisor official says the deeper integration of Viator into the mothership is a "win for travelers and business alike", adding:
"The value for businesses joining Viator and is that they gain exposure to millions of travelers researching and booking their trips on both sites through the Viator Supplier API and open listing platform.
"Any supplier or operator that signs onto the Viator open listing platform will benefit from the same distribution opportunities as the leading operators around the world who already work with Viator, including access 3,000 active distribution partners and 175,000 travel agents.
"These solutions help make global distribution of tours and attractions as real-time and streamlined as possible and provide a more seamless booking experience."
Still, the strategy appears to show that the tours and activities sector is beginning to mature to some degree (in terms of who the major players could be).
But it also illustrates that despite the size of TripAdvisor (and its potential as a gateway to millions of consumers), both operators and intermediaries should consider it a panacea.
Another rival intermediary says brands should not be lured into a false sense of security with the potential for sales when working with the likes of any large consumer brands, such as Facebook, Pinterest or TripAdvisor.
"If you build your main strategy around that house of sand, then at some point you either pay the ferryman to maintain it, or hopefully you’ve used the time they’ve given you, to work on your own direct business to sufficiently cover the margins you’ll lose when those services are free no more."