TripAdvisor hints at growing interest in finding vacation packages

TripAdvisor Long has offered price comparisons for hotels and flights separately. But the online travel search giant has shown increasing interest in offering flight and hotel packages as a product in more markets.

In a series of job postings, the company mentioned that it plans to “expand the user experience with vacation packages.” The revealing language appeared in the advertisements for engineer positions that the company posted between april and this month for its head office in Needham, Massachusetts and an office in Ottawa, Canada.

Some of the ads included the phrase “travel packagesTo the standard company description as “the world’s premier travel site for reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, flights, vacation rentals, travel packages, and more.” The word packages was not part of this descriptive language previously on other company documents.

A senior executive familiar with the company’s engineering backgrounds told Skift that TripAdvisor has been testing since last fall how it could expand its search for vacation packages – which is usually more complicated given the combination of suppliers and prices that must be displayed.

Asked about its ambition for travel packages, a TripAdvisor spokesperson said, “We have integrated vacation deals on TripAdvisor over the past few years, so this is nothing new. This is part of the comprehensive set of options we want to offer travelers to help them plan and book the perfect trip.

“We are working with various partners, and this is not a huge offer,” the spokesperson said. “We believe there is an opportunity for us to continue to offer more, but there is nothing to share at this time beyond our current offering.”

TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer speaks at the Skift Global Forum. Register now

Already dabbling in packages

TripAdvisor has never had a tab on its homepage or in its app for package vacations – for reasons that are unclear, given the scale of the opportunity.

It would make sense for the company to want to break into the package holiday market which can amount to $ 71 billion of gross bookings worldwide in 2018, an estimated jump of 9% compared to 2017.

Granted, TripAdvisor has allowed third parties, such as tour operators and online travel agencies like Expedia, to advertise flight plus hotel packages to specific destinations that generate a lot of interest in package vacations. For example, the UK version of TripAdvisor’s desktop browser offers packages for the popular resort destination of Ibiza, Spain.

TripAdvisor also pinpointed sales of flight plus hotel packages by inserting a handful of packages into its flight search results under certain circumstances. These are often third party vacation packages sold by the online travel agency Expedia.

The company takes different approaches. In TripAdvisor’s mobile app, users reviewing flight searches were asked to click a link to visit Expedia to see what a flat rate might include. On the desktop version of TripAdvisor, users sometimes see an Expedia package listed as one of the flight results only promoting the per person price of the package, even when the price is higher than the adjacent only flight deals that the site has fetched.

TripAdvisor vacation packages

Global market

Other major meta-research, or price comparisons, have attempted to sell packages.

A case in point is Kayak, and its acquisition Sidestep. They were among the first experimenters. In 2012, Kayak launched the metasearch of packages in Europe. In 2014, he extended it to the United States

Momondo, a Kayak brand acquired last year, continues to offer packages, too much. He gets his supplies from several suppliers and agencies.

Yet not all companies have jumped on the trend. A spokesperson for Ctrip Skyscanner said: “Vacation packages are currently not a priority for Skyscanner.”

TripAdvisor Needham Headquarters

TripAdvisor does not do the packaging itself

TripAdvisor, Kayak, and other companies may face regulatory issues in their efforts to sell travel packages, at least in Europe.

A European Union package travel directive which was implemented this year tightened the rules for selling multi-pronged travel bookings. “More and more of these sales are being viewed as either a package deal or a related travel arrangement,” said Farina Azam, Partner and Sales Manager at Travlaw, a British law firm.

Instant or facilitated bookings – where customers stay on the metasearch website to enter their payment information and complete their transaction – can be problematic under the new regulations, which could view the metasearch site as legally “the” package organizer ”if it sells component trips at a total price.

Azam believed that even if TripAdvisor or a similar company acted as an agent on behalf of travel suppliers or other agents, it could still be considered the organizer of the package and bear certain regulatory burdens as if it were ‘acted as a full-fledged travel agency.

If this interpretation turns out to be correct, it would be an irritation for online travel players like TripAdvisor and Kayak. It is still not clear whether a company could legally offer instant booking of packages in cooperation with an online travel agency acting as an organizer. But the instant booking format is more effective in enticing consumers to make a reservation due to the fluidity of the process, especially on mobile devices.

Kayak does not offer instant reservations for packages. A spokesperson said the company “only advertises these packages, which are offered by online travel agencies or other parties acting as a tour operator (the” organizer “as the European Package Travel Directive) Kayak does not consolidate the components and does not become an organizer.

A year ago, Google started showing up in test European markets, such as travel package search in Germany, which sources mainly from third-party technology companies. It still offers packages but without instant booking.

TripAdvisor would probably also like to avoid the same potential problems. The terms and conditions of the company insist that it “is not a booking agent or a tour operator”.

Although TripAdvisor is accredited as a passenger agent to sell US air travel, it does not offer instant or facilitated booking for flights.

More demand than expected

It is commonly believed that vacation packages – which are more complicated to create than simply selling a flight or a hotel – become less popular among vendors during times of high economic growth, such as the United States and the United States. ‘Europe currently know him. Traditionally, suppliers have not felt the need to offer deep discounts on retail prices during periods of expansion.

But this theory may not be true in practice. Real wage growth has stagnated for some consumer segments. Many buyers continue to look for good deals. The popularity of Secret Getaways, a luxury vacation deals flash site that raised a $ 111 million Series D round of investment last year is highlighting the trend. So TripAdvisor could see the traction if it expanded its flat rate product.

TripAdvisor has already allowed users to rate tour operators that offer vacation packages and has awarded certificates of excellence to popular ones, such as a 2018 award for Portal of visits to Egypt.

Unlike its competitors, TripAdvisor could have an advantage in marketing packages online because it has one of the most, if not the most, user-generated reviews of hotels and flights. He could use reviews and ratings to persuade consumers to book.

About Brad S. Fulton

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