TripAdvisor.com is a travel website providing directory information and reviews of travel-related content. The website services are free to users, who provide most of the content. Now TripAdvisor is starting to look a bit closer at both Africa and the business travel market, as EMEA PR Manager Stephanie Boyle explains.
Q: What is the current TripAdvisor take on Africa?
A: Due to the fact that Africa is becoming a more important market, we’ve just launched a local domain for South Africa. We now operate in 39 countries after launching Vietnam, and we’re launching new countries all the time and localising the experience for travellers who are looking for their own local currency and relevant content. That means we have filters in place for business travellers who are looking for, for example, hotels that have been reviewed by business travellers. The most important things for them will be elements such as Wi-Fi, the business centre, the hotel’s proximity to the convention centre etc.
Q: How long have you had this facility?
A: We launched TripAdvisor for Business, which is our B2B element, in 2010.
Q: How does South Africa compare with the rest of Africa?
A: South Africa is our first African country after Egypt that we have launched a localised website for. We look at it on a global scale, and we look at which emerging markets show an interest and where it’s feasible for us to be able to localise our content easily. The fact that English is spoken in South Africa makes our job easier. We also have a lot of reviews written by South Africans, which makes it more relevant for people looking for content from users like themselves.
Q: Is your business travel tool a response to a demand for this service?
A: Everything we do is about making people plan and have the perfect trip, whatever the reason for that trip. We didn’t set out to make a business travel tool. We set out to make tools that would be useful to every type of traveller. Business travel is a huge element, and we know that amenities are of great importance to business travellers. Wi-Fi has become an important amenity – not just for business travelers – and everyone wants it for free. About two years ago we did an amenities study and the US was the market that wanted Wi-Fi the most. A lot of British and European people didn’t really care as much. When we did it again this year, it was prevalent in almost all markets. The good thing we saw was that the number of hoteliers offering it had shot up as well. And those who aren’t currently offering it are planning on including it in their services next year.
Q: Do you see an opportunity to grow your business travel focus on the African continent?
A: We are always looking for new markets. A lot of the services we’re developing are in the areas of personalisation and mobile, so that we can target people who are more business travel-focused or who are using mobile. A lot of emerging market travellers seem to be jumping straight to mobile and skipping that desktop phase. 40% of traffic globally is on mobile, which for us is massive. With that rise of mobile and tablet usage, we’re trying to make sure that anything we innovate in or develop is going to be useful there. And I think that’s where business travellers can benefit. When there are other markets in Africa that we can get into, we will absolutely be there.
Q: Have you been able to use trends to determine how the modern day traveller has changed?
A: Yes. For example, the mini-bar is on the way out. Travellers don’t seem to care about it any longer and quite a few businesses say it’s one of the things impacting their booking decisions. When we asked the question in the survey this year, it really moved down the ladder of importance. The comments we got back were that the new travellers are becoming much more sociable and that they prefer a hotel bar. A couple of US hoteliers told us that they were trying to offer a better service in the lobby and make it more inviting.
Q: Any other trends?
A: 91% of global travellers take their mobile phone on holiday, and that number is 95% in South Africa. But what they’re using it for is very similar to the global trend. They’re definitely using it for maps and GPS, and 23% are still looking for hotels on their mobile.