At Web Summit 2018, Stephen Kaufer, President and CEO of TripAdvisor, shared his vision for the future of travel and described how they are looking to do this via exciting new changes to their app, which launched earlier this month.

Consumers typically visit hundreds of travel sites in planning a trip, so TripAdvisor set out to bring all of that content together in one place. By bringing all of the social sharing that consumers do into the app, they created a “feed” of everything a user’s friends, family and people they follow have to say about a place.

TripAdvisor’s new app brings information to help in the discovery and inspiration stage from all sorts of sources, brands and influencers travellers trust, together with insightful opinions on what to do and see.

Users have access to helpful and inspirational videos, photos, articles and guides from friends and family, as well as from over a thousand brands, publishers, and influencers. Brands and publishers featured within TripAdvisor’s new app experience include Condé Nast Traveler, GoPro, National Geographic, and Time Out magazine.

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A more social travel experience

As travellers search for a specific destination on TripAdvisor’s new app, their travel feed automatically surfaces relevant content from the global TripAdvisor community.

For example, someone planning a trip to Paris might discover helpful information such as a food critic’s article on the best restaurant in the city, an influencer’s travel guide of must-do experiences, a friend’s review of a new hotel near the Louvre and more.

Two side-by-side screenshots from the Trip Advisor app, showing videos and recommendations for things to do in Paris.

Unlike social media sites, TripAdvisor makes inspirational content actionable by enabling the traveller to book their restaurant, hotel or experience without leaving the site or app.

Does TripAdvisor have any plans to formally integrate with social media platforms? When asked this question at Web Summit, Kaufer described how the new app gives brands and influencers the ability to republish content they have already created on TripAdvisor.

The beauty of doing this in a travel vertical is that they are creating content which is going to be there for a long time, while on other social platforms the content may fade away.

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Another innovative feature of the new app is called “Trips”. It enables travellers to collaborate with others by saving, organising, sharing and creating lists or in-depth guides highlighting their favourite hotels, restaurants, experiences in a particular destination.

Trips can also be made public and shared with the community to inspire and help others. Suddenly, a would-be traveller has access to an itinerary written by someone else who has been there and experienced what they are interested in – allowing them to copy, annotate and share it with their travelling companions.

Solving problems for customers

The integration of social and interactive features to TripAdvisor’s new app, Kaufer revealed, stemmed from a desire to solve problems for the company’s customers. TripAdvisor sees half a billion unique visitors every month coming to the site or app, and the company wants to help them maximise that vacation time.

The new features also play to TripAdvisor’s strengths: Kaufer highlighted that TripAdvisor has an amazing encyclopedia of information written by their community, with more than 700 million reviews and opinions.

Now they can offer branded content along with it from brands like National Geographic, who are considered an expert in everything you might want to explore.

TripAdvisor isn’t the only travel specialist that aims to create a one-stop shop for its customers, and a member of the audience asked if TripAdvisor sees AirBnB as a future competitor.

Kaufer acknowledged that AirBnB has done a great job in promoting a bespoke experience, and has helped people to come online and offer their services.

However, the key difference he sees is that TripAdvisor sets out to help travellers regardless of what they want to do, whether that be a small bespoke tour, or seeing iconic sights at a major tourist destination. They want to help consumers find exactly the right experience.

A personal travel agent

Finally, Kaufer gave his thoughts on what he sees as the biggest innovation in travel going forward.

The headache of travel, he suggested, is figuring out what is right for you as a traveller. TripAdvisor’s ability to use machine learning and the huge set of data they are sitting on to help guide the next traveller based on who they are following, what they have done on the site, and who they are connected with, in order to make that great recommendation and maybe even put it in a format that looks like a custom itinerary.

“Think back to the days when you went in to see a travel agent,” said Kaufer, “and when they helped create that guide for you – but the travel agent didn’t really know you and might not have even been to the destination you were interested in.

“Now with machine learning we have the ability to create that guide for you: we connect you with people who have been there and experienced that location, and with locals on the ground. Nobody does it today, but in five years I think it will be easier for the traveller to focus on the experience rather than spend time sorting through the options.”

More brands are recognising that customers want experiences, and TripAdvisor is promising a great deal more to help the consumer achieve all their vacation needs all in one place.

Being a real organiser of what I want to do before I arrive at a destination, I will certainly be trying out this functionality for my next trip.

For more of the latest digital trends shaping the future of travel, download Econsultancy’s Digital Trends in the Travel and Hospitality Sectors report, produced in partnership with Adobe.