TripAdvisor Flip-Flopping On the Flip-Flop

DigiTourShow #202

Chris Torres

Chris Torres

16 Jan 2019

Welcome to episode 202 of the Digital Tourism Show. You may be wondering what has happened to episode 200 and 201? These are being published over the next 2 weeks but I had to jump a couple of episode off the back of some recent news.

You may know that Dermot Halpin of TripAdvisor Experience previously announced at the Arival event in Las Vegas last year that they were offering preferential treatment to those who use their recently acquired Bókun booking platform.

Two Months later, TripAdvisor president Stephen Kaufer announced at the Phocuswrite Conference that that decision was reversed. Great news… or so we thought.

Just yesterday, some TripAdvisor customers received an email saying that, and I quote, “We’re excited to announce TripAdvisor Sponsored Placements on our Things To Do Pages. To Help highlight products, drive traffic and receive more bookings, we’re testing this feature and providing it to Bókun users free of charge.

Seriously TripAdvisor…. WTF?!?

Just yesterday, some TripAdvisor customers received an email saying that, and I quote, We’re excited to announce TripAdvisor Sponsored Placements on our Things To Do Pages.

So, it seems TripAdvisor has flip-flopped again!

Did Stephen Kaufer know about this when he told us that there was going to be no priority toward suppliers using Bókun on stage at Phocuswright Conference?

Let me be blunt… the whole point of TripAdvisor, until now, was to offer impartial reviews of tours, hotels and activities. Now it seems to be moving towards a model of what system you use and how much you are willing to pay to get better listings.

Many operators I have spoken to seem to be annoyed at the constant change of direction. They say one thing one minute to only reverse it and then reverse it again.

There are two possible scenarios in their mixed messaging...

  1. The brand as a whole simply does not have a consistent strategy. As I mentioned in a previous blog, they are not all singing from the same hymn sheet. An old saying springs to mind: ‘they don't know their arse from their elbow’.
  2. They are deliberately miss-informing the industry to micro manage any negative press and backlash.

Whatever scenario it is, it's not great is it?

By allowing sponsored listings, it provides an opportunity for those operators with terrible reviews (3 and above – should be higher!) to now promote their products above those who have great reviews. Does anyone in the tours and activities sector really think this is a good thing?

As I have said before, I understand that TripAdvisor needs to grow the business and make money. Nothing wrong with that. But the way they are doing it, in my mind, spells the end of TripAdvisor as we know it. They seem hell bent on destroying the fundamental principles of what the business was built on. It is ripping the spine out of the brand to the detriment of the operators.

Will they reverse the decision for a fourth time? Going by recent events, probably. But with the constant flip-flopping in mind, they may soon find out that while they keep experimenting on ways to make more money, they lose the one thing that built up the brand in the first place… the operators.

– Chris

ps. I need your help… You might be interested to know, and would be amazing to get your support, that I have launched an Indiegogo page to help get my book, Lookers Into Bookers, published. I feel the book will become the go-to resource for tour and activity businesses. If you can, please pledge and share with your networks too.

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