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Web 3.0 & TripAdvisor

Posted on Wednesday, Apr 25th 2007

We have been discussing about the online travel industry and have covered Yahoo! Travel from a Web 3.0 perspective earlier. Here we take a look at TripAdvisor’s offering.

TripAdvisor was founded in February 2000 and is among the world’s largest online travel communities with over 20 million unique monthly visitors and approximately 5 million registered members. TripAdvisor is currently part of Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE). The site is a winner of PC Magazine’s Top 100 Web Sites and Forbes Best of the Web.

Context
TripAdvisor provides recommendations for hotels, resorts, inns, vacation packages, and travel guides. The various categories like Find Hotels, Flights, Read & Write Reviews, Browse Destinations, Rants & Raves, GoLists, TripAdvisor Forums, Helpful Links, Top Business Hotels, TripAdvisor Inside, Photo and Video Sharing are distinct sections, but the organization could have been better. The users have the freedom of moving quickly from one category to the other, but the organization doesn’t necessarily create an integrated contextual experience. TripAdvisor doesn’t flow with the natural rhythm of a travel planning experience.

In fact, the key problem with TripAdvisor is its organization. I tried to look at the photos of Giraffe Manor B&B in Nairobi, but after scrolling through pages, I couldn’t find them, even though the reviewer claims to have posted them.

Content
TripAdvisor has a wide range of content. The site contains information on over 180,000 hotels and 91,000 restaurants in 23,000 cities. The users can also browse travel destinations across the world with the aid of a travel map and as the searches narrow down, the user is provided with a local map showing local attractions and best local deals in hotels.

TripAdvisor is wiki-enabled, which facilitates millions of travelers to view, contribute, and edit the guides available on more than 24,000 destinations worldwide. The site also has photos and videos. The site has tie-ups with over 17 business partners in the travel industry including Expedia, Sabre, Orbitz and American Airlines.

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Community
TripAdvisor has the largest travel community on the web, which is visited by more than 500,000 travelers every day. The site through TripAdvisor Forum allows users to post their experiences of a tour, express opinions, recommend hotels, resorts, inns, vacations, travel packages, vacation packages, post questions and answer or advise other members of the forum. The users can also post photos and videos of their tours. TripAdvisor allows users to create a travel blog on TravelPod.

TripAdvisor is by far the most successful in engaging a global community of travelers in sharing their experiences and reviews on the site. The Rant & Rave function can make or break the reputation of a hotel or a restaurant in a nanosecond, and is tremendously helpful to travelers!

Commerce
TripAdvisor has tie-ups with a number of sites like its parent Expedia,
Hotels.com, British Airways, Delta, Priceline and Lastminute.com, all of which aids its users in booking flights, hotels, vacations or cruises, enabling it to earn commission revenue. This, however, is a commodity function, available in all travel sites.

The TripAdvisor Store retails various TripAdvisor Gears through a tie-up with Cafepress. Items sold by TripAdvisor include hats, mugs, clothing, bags etc. that one requires while traveling. The site has identified a way of monetizing its brand, but so far, this looks like a fairly shabby effort, since the merchandising, by and large, sucks. They should look at how National Geographic does its merchandising, by creating unique products sourced from various parts of the world – jackets from Nepal, wool slippers from Tibet, cap from Peru – rather than this bland catalog of insignia products.

Personalization
TripAdvisor offers some good personalization wrt travel planning. Each personalized page contains full information of a user, stating the person’s recent travels or booking, contributions to TripAdvisor, reviews on the posts and also includes user preferences for travel (pleasure or business), spending habits, vacation choices and mixing nature. The personalization facility allows users to organize and plan one’s trip, save hotels, attractions, compare hotels, make a list of places one would like to visit, add maps and notes, organize items by destination or days, create one’s personal travel guidebook and save, print or email the above.

The site also informs the registered users with time-sensitive e-mail newsletter for travelers planning a vacation, giving customized e-mail alerts on specific hotels, attractions and cities of their choice. The site also has personalized newsletters like TripWatch and Weekend Getaway Guide provided through email.

Vertical Search
TripAdvisor offers user-friendly search option facilities for hotels and flights enabling users to select from multiple options according to their preferences, but there is nothing special or differentiated.

I would like to plan a whole trip around B&Bs in Andalucia (Southern Spain). How do I do that? The vertical search option simply doesn’t get sophisticated enough, quite yet.

Business Model
TripAdvisor has an Alexa traffic rank of 504 and has more than 20 million unique monthly visitors. The site has display advertising as well as cost-per-click advertising. Travel Ad Network is TripAdvisor’s exclusive advertising representative for display advertising. Advertising and Commissions on bookings constitute their primary revenue streams.

Web 3.0 Rating : Context: A-; Content: A-; Community: A+; Commerce: B-; Personalization: B+; Vertical Search: B-; Overall : A-

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