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Background - 25.03.2022 - 00:00

Pizza, palms and best prices – Tripadvisor knows the place to go

Stephen Kaufer, founder and CEO of Tripadvisor, was interviewed during START Summit 2022 by Andreas Güntert of Handelszeitung where they discussed the history of Tripadvisor and how it started with the idea of building a search engine for travellers. However, they didn’t imagine all of what they achieved – thanks to the "amazing network effect".

25 March 2022. Tripadvisor is now considered "the world's largest travel advice platform", helping travellers find the best hotel, restaurant or excursion destination. The origin of the business idea started in Mexico, when founder Stephen Kaufer wanted to plan a great trip more than 20 years ago. The brochures he received from the tourism agencies were not what he was looking for: "I wanted a recommendation from the world out there".

Gaining trust through transparency

While Tripadvisor started out as a search engine for travellers, they now have had over 1 billion reviews since 2000. Yet after two years of operation, they almost went bankrupt because of 9/11. But they fought through these difficult times and eventually experienced an "amazing network effect". Kaufer emphasised the difficulty of reaching critical mass for a platform: "We tried many things that didn't work". Today Tripadvisor employs around 3000 people and the main source of revenue is generating leads and clicks for partners like booking.com. One challenge for the platform is fake reviews, but according to its CEO, Tripadvisor handles them quite well, as you can read in its annual review transparency report. Tripadvisor gives travellers insight into whether a place is great or not to recommend. Therefore, he says, customers need to trust that they can rely on the content they read on the platform. Tripadvisor could also be seen as an online experience where people think about travelling and later want to travel in the real world.

Recommendations are also needed in the metaverse

When it comes to the metaverse, Kaufer sees great opportunities for service providers in the travel industry. He does not believe that people will only travel virtually in the future – quite the opposite. "It will probably promote travel," just as travel shows on TV have done. By offering virtual tours of their properties, for example, hotels could whet potential customers' appetites to physically travel there. For the CEO, this year marks the end of an era and the start of new adventures. Change is good for people and companies. The new leadership comes with other strengths. He imagines staying in the travel industry in the future but is also open to changing environs. "I love to learn, whatever comes".

Image: Adobe Stock / Nicolas Dieppedalle

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