Last Friday, C Level Community (a networking organization) sponsored a Waltham breakfast and interview with Stephen Kaufer, founder and president/CEO of Tripadvisor. In the 22 years since its founding, Tripadvisor has grown into an international travel powerhouse, was acquired and later spun out again, and is a major force in US and European travel. What’s Kaufer’s secret?
Kaufer notes that his company is an internet business and needs to act quickly to respond to the market. Additionally, Tripadvisor has to maintain the independence and non-hackability of its posted reviews so that it remains an accurate guide to well-advised travel.
Although it feels gimmick-y, Kaufer claims that the enterprise has prospered by adhering to the messages on the three signs in his office:
“Speed wins.” His market runs fast. Put stuff up on the web. If it doesn’t work, just take it down.
“Impact.” Evaluate ideas not just if they will work but, if so, will they have material impact.
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring.” How else do you know what works, particularly when you’re adhering the sign #1?
They must guard against fake travel reviews, and businesses puffing themselves. Devices include using sophisticated web fraud investigators, gathering names of sites which overtly advertise that they will sell you good reviews (post them for you) by setting up mock hotels so that when good reviews come in, paid for by Tripadvisor pretending to be such a hotel, the fake reviewer organization can be tracked back and identified.
Second, what is Kaufer’s take on the revival of travel, post-COVID? Leisure travel already has come back (people have felt locked indoors), travel in the US and Mexico has been robust and the US just relaxed border restrictions. 2021 summer travel was more robust than the same period in 2019. Business travel will take 4-5 years to recover; conferences and marketing trips will be robust but certain kinds of business will continue to be done by zoom, such as periodic review meetings with customers.