Instant Booking Is In The Water. Now What for TripAdvisor?

If you're a fan of the Wall Street Journal video stream, then you've probably noticed TripAdvisor's recent ad campaign enticing you to "Book at TripAdvisor". CMO Barbara Messing and team hit the nail on the head with this one. TripAdvisor needs stronger resonance with the business traveler, especially now that the company's future depends on the success of its new Instant Booking functionality. So the WSJ is a perfect channel to promote the new-and-improvedtravel review + travel booking brand.

Now with Instant Booking in the water, what next for TripAdvisor?

WSJ ads are just a taste of the onslaught of campaigns that will likely hit the U.S. market in the first half of 2016. Digital, social, offline, mobile, desktop, print – all of those marketing costs add up, especially in the travel space. Expedia spent USD 2.8 billion on marketing in 2014, more than twice the revenue TRIP generated that year.

TripAdvisor clearly took on a full plate with Instant Booking. A plate that was already jammed with strategic obligations. With a streak of acquisitions in 2014 and 2015, the company positioned itself well on multiple battlegrounds – i.e. hotel bookings, homestays, restaurant reservations, tours & activities – but there are some hungry giants lurking in these waters.

TripAdvisor Instant Booking

Source: SWOT Report: TripAdvisor’s Pivot on Direct Bookings, the Challenges Ahead - LUFT

The question now is whether TRIP has the bandwidth to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Expedia, Priceline, Google, Airbnb, the list goes on. Financial analysts are starting to buzz over the possibility of a TripAdvisor sale. By the second half of 2016 we should have a better sense of whether Instant Booking is catching on with both consumers and hoteliers. Much of TRIP’s strategy going forward will also depend on these and other factors:

  • How will TRIP fund future growth?

  • How much momentum can Instant Booking possibly generate?

  • Will TRIP get acquired?

  • How will investors react in a bear market?

  • Any limitations to the direct-connect model?

  • What might happen to FlipKey?

  • Which markets will TRIP struggle in?