TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer Walks Back Statements on Preferencing…

Speaking at the Phocuswright Conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, TripAdvisor President and CEO Stephen Kaufer appeared to walk back earlier comments by TripAdvisor Experiences President Dermot Halpin. Kaufer said the company will not preference tour and activity operators that use Bokun – the reservation system provider it acquired earlier this year – over those that do not.

At the Arival conference in Las Vegas in September, Halpin said operators who use the booking software Bokun would be shown preferential treatment.

Stephen Kaufer

In an interview with Phocuswright Research Manager Alice Jong, Kaufer provided some clarity for how suppliers will be treated. Jong asked him about the previous statements made by Halpin at Arival.

“If you’re a Bokun supplier or a supplier through another technology you’re treated the same on TripAdvisor,” Kaufer says. “So please, if you’re an attraction supplier, use Bokun if it fits your needs. We think it’s a great software. If a different partner does a better job, go with that partner, run your business… With Bokun we just want to bring more and more suppliers online.”

When pressed directly by Jong about whether suppliers would be shown preferential treatment if they use Bokun, Kaufer made the policy clear.  

“The search results are that you have to be online and bookable… If your content on TripAdvisor is great you’re going to get great treatment on TripAdvisor. You’re not going to get any better treatment just because Bokun is your [system],” said Kaufer.  

Industry Reaction

This announcement to clarify the company’s position was met with praise.

“I think it’s great that there won’t be any distinction made within TripAdvisor’s algorithm due to a supplier’s choice of reservation platform,”  Chris Atkin CEO of Rezdy said. “I know it will make many suppliers rest easier given they might have specific operational needs that drive their reservation platform decision. After all, the main focus for TripAdvisor is to deliver the consumer the best and increasingly most personalized inspiration for their trip and it shouldn’t be affected by other considerations.”

Walks CEO and co-founder Stephen Oddo was blunt in his assessment.

“They have a lot of influence on supplier behavior but I think most of it has a good influence on the sector overall right now. TripAdvisor has to work with the best suppliers with quality products to fill guest needs, and there are many great reservation systems out there to help do that,”  Oddo said. “Suppliers shouldn’t waste time migrating and disrupting their business process to adopt a new technology platform just because one sales channel bought one, nor should it affect a strategy to prioritize products that deliver a quality guest experience.”

The clarification provided by Kaufer seems to be a breath of fresh air to the industry that was concerned that TripAdvisor would change the fundamentals of how customers book activities and events. Check back with Arival to get all of the most important news about the best part of travel, tours, activities, events, and attractions.  

“The search results are that you have to be online, bookable,… if your content on TripAdvisor is great you’re going to get great treatment on TripAdvisor you’re not going to get any better treatment just because Bokun is your [system].”  

Stephen Kaufer

President & CEO of TripAdvisor
Peter Gietl