At some point between September and December, independent hotels will gain the ability to have travelers using TripAdvisor's metasearch tool book directly with them via TripAdvisor's mobile app and mobile Web interface.
Launched a year ago, TripAdvisor's TripConnect is a metasearch auction biddingtool for independent hotels and B&Bs.
Today TripAdvisor announced that it's taking TripConnect to the next stage.
The move affects the more than 65,000 hotels and bed and breakfast providers who have in the past year gained connectivity to participate in hotel price comparison, or metasearch, on TripAdvisor.
By the end of the year, anyone already integrated with TripConnect will be able to add this mobile option once they implement the review giant's booking API.
Independent properties will be able to compete with the big chains like Choice Hotels and GetAroom for Instant Booking transactions on mobile and pay TripAdvisor a commission once the guest has stayed.
To learn more, Tnooz talked with Lew Harasymiw, director of connectivity solutions (i.e., overseeing the engineering). He says:
"What we’ve seen in last year or so of doing the metasearch portion and Tripconnect is that the conversion rates when mobile users were sent off to make the booking weren't that great.
There's a lot of friction between the TripAdvisor experience and the independent property's own booking engine.... Some properties aren't mobile optimized."
On June 11, TripAdvisor added this Instant Booking mobile optimized booking form to its mobile app and mobile Web interface.
Consumers now can complete the booking with the property or third party without leaving the TripAdvisor's familiar user experience (UX).
The evolution of TripConnect will mean that independent hotels will also be able to benefit from Instant Booking from consumers on mobile devices and again, reduce friction and get more direct bookings via a commission-based model paid once the guest has stayed.
The uniform TripAdvisor branding increases consumer confidence to book, says Joost Schreve, VP of mobile at TripAdvisor.
Plus, Schreve adds, it's difficult to type on a mobile device. So the simplified UX adopts best practices for mobile, make it easier for users.
It will take time to build the connectivity. This week, TripAdvisor will offer connectivity-facing partners what they need to build their own tools.
TripAdvisor already has a half-dozen internet booking engines, central reservation systems, and channel managers whose switches are live and compatible today.
These include Sabre Hospitality Solutions, SiteMinder, Cubilis, FreeToBook, and WebHotelier.
Until this announcement the commercial model for TripConnect was cost-per-click based so the concept of a per-booking flat commission model is new.
TripAdvisor sees this as a supplement of content, with passing everything through the internet booking engines (IBEs) to the hotel.
The booking will be sent through the API (advanced programming interface) to the hotel, building on top of their existing booking engine inventory.
All customer information passes over straight away. For instance, if a customer clicks on an advance purchase rate, the hotel can collect deposit on it immediately.
These details differ from the online travel agency model, where the payment or customer details might come after a delay.
Gradual roll out
The ability for independent hotels to leverage Instant Booking through TripConnect will be available to all hotels globally, says a spokesperson.
But the slice of consumer traffic that will be able to see it will depend on the overall Instant Booking roll out on TripAdvisor's consumer site.
In the third quarter it will only be appearing to US-based mobile users of TripAdvisor's app and mobile website, says Schreve. But eventually many countries will receive their own mobile user experience, adapted for local currency and language.
Schreve says it's still early days for testing the new uniform Instant Booking user experience for mobile, but results are "good and encouraging".
TripAdvisor has about 10 to 15 engineers working on TripConnect (a subset of the Instant Book team). That's a doubling of a commitment from a year ago.
(In March, Harasymiw joined TripAdvisor to lead the product development/connectivity side of TripConnect, replacing Jean-Charles Lacoste. Lacoste has since become CEO of Invideous, a a video monetization company in London.)
TripAdvisor also has four business development specialists working full-time on business relationships with connectivity partners, says Maud Larpent, director of direct connect development.
The commitment complements other TripAdvisor efforts, such as its effort to let hotels chat directly with travellers before a trip via Q&A system.
NB: Additional reporting by Kevin May.
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