We have been discussing the online travel industry and have covered Yahoo! Travel from a Web 3.0 perspective already. Here we take a look at the offering from online travel community behemoth TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor was founded in February 2000 and is among the world‚Äôs 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 site is broken up into distinct categories like Find Hotels, Flights, Read & Write Reviews, Browse Destinations, Rants & Raves, GoLists, TripAdvisor Forums, Helpful Links, Top Business Hotels, TripAdvisor Inside, and Photo and Video Sharing, but the organization could be better. The users have the freedom of moving quickly from one category to another, but the organization doesn’t necessarily create an integrated contextual experience. TripAdvisor doesn’t flow with the natural rhythm of the 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 numerous 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. 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 the best deals for local 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-ins with over 17 business partners in the travel industry including Expedia, Sabre, Orbitz and American Airlines.

Community

TripAdvisor has the largest travel community on the web, which is visited by more than 500,000 travelers every day. The TripAdvisor Forum allows users to post their experiences about tours, express opinions, recommend hotels, resorts, inns, vacations, travel packages, vacation packages, post questions and answer or advise other members of the forum. 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-ins with a number of commerce sites such as its parent Expedia,
Hotels.com, British Airways, Delta, Priceline and Lastminute.com, all of which aid its users in booking flights, hotels, vacations or cruises, enabling the site to earn commission revenue. This, however, is a commodity function, available on all travel sites.

The TripAdvisor Store retails various TripAdvisor Gear through a partnership with Cafepress. Items sold by TripAdvisor include hats, mugs, clothing, bags etc. The site has identified a way of monetizing its brand, but so far, this looks like a fairly shabby effort, since to be blunt, 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, caps from Peru – rather than this bland catalog of insignia products.

Personalization

TripAdvisor offers some good personalization and travel planning options. Each personalized page contains full information about the user, stating the person’s recent travels or booking, contributions to TripAdvisor, reviews and also includes user preferences for travel (pleasure or business), spending habits, and vacation choices. 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, and create a personal travel guidebook to save, print or email.

The site also informs the registered users with a 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 other personalized newsletters like TripWatch and Weekend Getaway Guide provided through email.

Vertical Search

TripAdvisor offers user-friendly search options for hotels and flights enabling users to select from multiple options according to their preferences, but there is nothing special or overly different about it.

I would like to plan a trip centered 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.

Conclusion

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