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No place for journeymen

Published on Friday, 30 Nov 2012
Jean Ow Yeong, senior manager for Asia-Pacific media relations, TripAdvisor.
Photo: Thanyapura

TripAdvisor is the world’s largest social travel site, providing user-generated reviews on hotels, restaurants and holiday locations around the world. Jean Ow Yeong, the company’s senior manager for Asia-Pacific media relations, explains how the website attracts 56 million unique users a month, and how rapid growth is driving a need to recruit high-performing individuals across the Asia-Pacific region.

How would you describe TripAdvisor’s business model?
TripAdvisor has established a compelling business model based on rich user-generated content. This creates valuable monetisation opportunities and an efficient cost structure.

We have three main sources of revenue. Click-based advertising, or CPC, accounts for the largest percentage of revenue. This is when the user clicks on the “show prices” button and we pass those very relevant leads onto our online-travel-agency and hotelier partners.

The next largest segment of revenue is display advertising. This is the sale of relevant, targeted advertising that enriches the overall user experience.

Finally we have our subscription-based revenue, including business listings – which allow property owners to provide their phone numbers, websites and email addresses right beneath the property name for that direct booking – and vacation rentals.

What new features has TripAdvisor added recently?
Our new “Friend of a Friend” feature highlights trusted reviews and opinions from friends of Facebook friends. This represents the next step in making travel-planning more social for the TripAdvisor global community, with travellers now ten times more likely to see personalised travel advice on TripAdvisor.

Our “Local Picks” Facebook app provides dining recommendations from locals and friends covering more than 850,000 restaurants worldwide, so that users can discover the best places to eat. Each restaurant has a detailed profile that includes a score from one to five on the Local Picks Index, a rating system that aims to bring neighbourhood favourites and hidden-gem eateries to the fore, reviewed by real locals who know the area best.

Our “City Guides” free mobile app is now available for 50 leading destinations around the world. Conveniently accessible even when the user is offline, the app now includes three new features on its Android version. These give travellers the ability to view local transit stations, create personalised maps and see itinerary suggestions from travel experts, in addition to reviews and opinions from the greater TripAdvisor community.

What are the major challenges of operating the site?
TripAdvisor has seemingly really struck a chord with travellers globally and we are seeing phenomenal growth in the number of people coming to the site. We now have more than 56 million unique users coming to our site every month, making us the most visited travel site in the world. This growth provides more opportunities and the subsequent need to grow internally. It can be a challenge to keep up with recruitment plans as we continue to strive to find the best people.

Our mission has always been to create a site that helps travellers plan and enjoy the perfect trip. This means we never rest on our laurels and are always innovating to provide the best experiences we can. This leads to developments in social travel planning by, for example, working with Facebook, developing mobile apps and working with hoteliers to provide them with an indispensable marketing tool to reach potential guests.

What is the outlook like for online tourism in HK and China?
Of our 56 million unique users a month, 10 million come from Asia-Pacific, with 1.5 million coming from China and 120,000 from Hong Kong.

According to market researchers PhoCusWright, double-digit growth is projected through 2012 in Asia-Pacific, and the momentum is building.

From May 2011 to May 2012, TripAdvisor registered growth in page views for hotels and accommodation in Hong Kong and China of 62 per cent and 58 per cent respectively. A large number of travellers are using TripAdvisor when researching hotels in Hong Kong and China and the numbers are increasing.

How many people do you employ?
At the end of June 2012, we had over 1,400 employees.

What expansion plans do you have?
We currently have local sites in 30 countries and in 21 languages, and we continue to see and focus on the huge opportunities in each of those markets to meet the needs of travellers and the hospitality industry around the world.

What are your future hiring plans?
With the company’s continued growth, combined with a desire to keep innovating, we will continue to hire in all our main and regional headquarters across the world. In Asia-Pacific we have offices in Japan, India, China, Korea and regional headquarters in Singapore.

What kind of employees do you look for?
We are always looking look for dynamic, high-performing individuals with a passion for travelling to grow the TripAdvisor business.

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