Tripadvisor continues to try to find ways to generate revenue, but how do you know which platforms are best for your hotel? The review-giant-turned-distribution-platform-turned-membership-program just rolled out its fourth program, Tripadvisor PLUS, and time will tell if their membership-based approach (think Amazon Prime of travel) will succeed.
Before we get there, let’s review the previous platforms in which a hotelier could participate.
Tripadvisor Basic Listing
You can claim your page for free and, at a minimum, respond to reviews and update your amenity offering. With the free listing you can add photos and respond to reviews.
Tripadvisor Business Advantage
(Previously Business Listing). Upgrade your Basic Listing to an enhanced listing as it offers more information to the traveler. You can now add COVID information for your hotel, create a special offer and the user can book easier from your listing. It also allows you to add direct contact information, like a website and a phone number.
- When to use it: We suggest every hotel upgrades to Business Advantage. Tripadvisor is still a large travel site and you don’t want to miss out on opportunity through this avenue.
- Advantages: Direct booking is easier, special offers are loaded for your hotel, you can create a storyboard, select your favorite review and photo.
- Disadvantages: Paying for the platform allows you to only control your own images; it is still difficult to get irrelevant images from a guest removed. If your ranking is poor, it may be hard to justify your spend.
- Costs: Depends on the size of your hotel, what market you are in and your current rankings. It is a yearly fee, but you can pay it monthly.
Note for Branded Hotels: Marriott and Hilton sponsor Business Advantage for their hotels, but IHG has now pushed this fee to hotels to pay directly.
Tripadvisor Sponsored Placement
While the automatic default sort order in a given search for a hotel in a market is Best Value, a guest can sort by Traveler Rank, Price or Distance to City Center. With Sponsored Placement, you can rank in the number one slot in all except the Price sort order.
- When to use it: When your hotel needs more visibility on Tripadvisor in the search section of their market.
- Advantages: Your ad is served to potential guests searching for criteria your hotel meets, above all other search results. Spend on this channel has been low, so maximizing this exposure may not take large funds.
- Disadvantages: In order for your Sponsored Placements to serve your direct hotel website’s book now button and rate, your metasearch bids must be out-bidding OTAs’ meta bid. The low spend is also a disadvantage, as you can’t “spend more to make more.”
- Costs: You set your own budget, but how far that goes completely depends on your market’s demand and cost-per-click. If you log into your hotel’s Tripadvisor account and click Promote your Property, it will give you a daily budget estimate plus estimated impressions.
Unless you participate in “Pay for Stays” via Instant Booking, Tripadvisor does not provide its own connectivity or inventory – they fall into the Metasearch category. They pull rates and inventory from other sites from which a guest can convert. This option is only available once a guest is on a hotel’s dedicated business page. For more details, we break it down here in our article “What is Metasearch.”
- When to use it: Shift market share from OTAs to Book Direct.
- Advantages: Your hotel is more likely to be served on Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements, and if the market is right, you capture a guest looking for your hotel on Tripadvisor (i.e. someone checking out your reviews before booking).
- Disadvantages: Outbidding OTAs is difficult enough without recovering from a pandemic, but the brand and hotel are still bidding against OTAs’ enormous marketing budgets. If you are out of parity and offering lower prices on OTAs, you will never see a strong ROAS on Metasearch campaigns.
- Costs: You determine your budget and are charged on a cost-per-click basis.
Note for Branded Hotels: This can be setup through Koddi (ie PLUS for Marriott, Amplify for Hilton and Boost for IHG).
The newest way to partner with Tripadvisor. While there is no out-of-pocket expense for hotels to participate, it is a $99/year membership program for guests. With membership, guests are guaranteed a minimum 10% off your Best Available Rate for all stays, plus an amenity or welcome gift. Guests who participate will be incentivized to maximize their membership. Most inventory is pulled from the GDS, although there are ways to connect directly that require greater discounts.
- When to use it: If your hotel is comfortable with offering a discounted rate to Tripadvisor above and beyond your other channels.
- Advantages: The program is free to hotels in terms of commissions, with the only “cost” being the discount and cost of the amenity/gift. There is likely a first mover advantage to this program. Hotels get guest contact information, including email addresses.
- Disadvantages: Travelers are recommended to be greeted as Tripadvisor Plus members; this isn’t going to go well for transitioning them to a book direct on their next stay. It is a slippery slope with the discount you offer and a hotel must balance that against placement.
- Costs: No true commission costs to hotels, but you do have to pay your standard GDS fees and the discount that is passed on to guests and the cost of the gift/amenity.
Note for Branded Hotels: Most brands are discouraging participation.
“The most important tool on Tripadvisor is listening to the feedback and voice of your customers — to be able to adapt and innovate your services is key to maximizing the platform,” says Adele Gutman, host of Hospitality Reputation Marketing podcast. “Reviews have a greater reach outside your own Tripadvisor page. Additionally, you should be testing each of the platforms for your specific hotel and see what works,”
Each platform bleeds into the next and is built in a way that encourages participating in all platforms. Each hotel in each market needs to look at the options available to them and conduct a test and learn series for their specific hotel. Take into consideration your hotel’s paid marketing objectives and where exposure may be lacking for your property.
About the Author
Stephanie Sparks Smith can weave through the intricacies of the large hotel brands’ digital marketing systems and strategies. As Founder and Digital Matriarch at Cogwheel Marketing, Stephanie and her team help management companies identify the gap between brand and hotel level marketing to drive incremental revenue to their individual Marriott, Hilton and IHG hotels. Previously she was VP of eCommerce and Technology for a management company that grew to over 100 hotels by focusing on new builds.