Ben Drew on Viator Changes

Tripadvisor recently announced a major change to its business with a renewed focus on the Viator brand as they look to split the OTA from Tripadvisor Experiences.

Viator will operate separately with its own marketing, engineering, and operations teams. Read the letter to employees here from CEO Steve Kaufer outlining the new changes.

Today the new head of Viator, Ben Drew wrote to its tour and activities partners outlining the new focus and what that will mean for existing tour operators who are contracted with Viator.

In short, at this stage, very little difference other than the logo.

‘My initial reaction was “so what?”, then it got me thinking.

Why separate the branding again? Why emphasize your contract is with Viator? Why push back to the Viator branding? Is Viator to be sold off or split off from TripAdvisor? It raises more questions than answers for me.’ said Brett Wells of Whisky Trails.

Staci Beck Giovino of Carmel Food Tours asks ‘So does that mean they will actually honor the contract that I signed with them, instead of adhering to the policies that TripAdvisor implemented?’

Alan Rust, CEO at America Tour Company told Tourpreneur that he is concerned that ‘our bookings from Tripadvisor/Viator will decrease because Tripadvisor Experiences had a better consumer appeal.’

Rust added ‘I think many of us have been confused about which support email to use. I hope that this gets clarified in the coming weeks.’

Many small to medium-sized tour operators have voiced frustration towards Tripadvisor following the company’s decision to hike tour and activities retail rates.

Rubbing salt into the wound was the recent decision by the Tripadvisor owned booking platform Bokun to unilaterally move all tours to a 4-hour cut off. Operators received an email from Bokun stating that their tours and activities would be moved to a 4-hr cut off unless the tour operator requested otherwise.

Tourpreneur’s Take

Hopefully, Arival CEO Douglas Quinby can ask these questions and get some real answers for tour operators at the Ask Me Anything session with Ben Drew during Arival Berlin next week.

I will be live-tweeting from that session (and others.) Follow Tourpreneur on Twitter and/or sign up to the Tourpreneur Daily Brief to keep up to date.


More background on why Tripadvisor is splitting Viator and Tripadvisor Experiences into two brands.

On the latest Tripadvisor earnings call for Q4 2019, CEO of Tripadvisor Steve Kaufer was asked ‘why was this the right timing to seemingly break these 2 businesses somewhat apart, given that you’ve tried to integrate them a little bit more closely over the last couple of years?’

“We had a plan many years ago when we first bought Viator. First, turning it into a marketplace from very curated selection, growing supply. Doing it geographically and leveraging the demand that existed on the TripAdvisor and the Viator platform. And we needed to teach ourselves how to best merchandise experiences having been kind of — from the TripAdvisor side, not in that business previously.

And so the one team that was responsible both for TripAdvisor and for Viator was leveraging all those new learnings for how to effectively sell experiences to travelers.

With several years now of getting that into our DNA, we’re now able to split it off and say, “For TripAdvisor, we’ve got the merchandising down. Let’s now tackle how an experience is part of a key considered trip.”

Flip it back over to Viator. Now we have an opportunity as a pure-play OTA for experiences to really build up both the brand, the focus on the merchandising on just the Viator point-of-sale, leveraging our third-party relationships, of which there are quite a few, and focus from a set of consumers that are looking for just the best thing to do while they’re in destination or beforehand.

Stephen Kaufer – TripAdvisor, Inc. – Co-founder, President, CEO & Director

And while some may go to TripAdvisor, which will be great for TripAdvisor Media group, they will be a set that are just looking for a pure-play experiences offering and we want Viator to have all the leverage to win in that space.

So it’s kind of like it was always part of what we thought would happen and I think we timed it well in terms of being able to have both sides, learn the merchandising, learn the best practices and then enable each brand to chase its audience.’