TripAdvisor is a platform on which users can review restaurants, hotels, and airlines as well as book accommodations, activities, or plane tickets.
The company, which is headquartered in Needham, Massachusetts, was founded in 2000 by Stephen Kaufer and Langley Steinert.
The majority of users that access TripAdvisor do so to get a feeling for whatever location they are about to embark on or read other opinions on hotels, restaurants, airlines, and more. In fact, more than one billion reviews have been published on the platform thus far.
TripAdvisor now even acts as a point of approval for many venues. For example, restaurants can slap the TripAdvisor logo onto their doorstep to signal that they are favored by many travelers.
The platform, furthermore, hands out yearly awards, dubbed Travelers’ Choice, since 2012. These acknowledge TripAdvisor’s best beaches, destinations, hotels, activities, and restaurants.
TripAdvisor has utilized its popularity among travelers to expand into bookings as well. In 2014, the firm launched its Instant Booking feature which enables customers to directly purchase airline tickets or stays on the platform.
The firm’s success is particularly surprising given that Kaufer and Steinert didn’t actually start TripAdvisor as a travel review site. Instead, they created a travel-related and white label search engine that could be used by other companies such as Expedia.
However, the bursting of the tech bubble as well as 9/11 meant that they weren’t able to get any customers 1.5 years into the business. As fortune would have it, though, they had previously created TripAdvisor.com as a demo site to display to prospective clients what a vertical search engine would look like.
TripAdvisor.com, over time, began to amass reviews and traffic, eventually surpassing the core product in the process. In 2004, IAC (which rebranded into Expedia Group a year later) purchased TripAdvisor for $210 million. Seven years later, TripAdvisor spun out of Expedia and IPO’d on Nasdaq.
Today, TripAdvisor generates around $902 million in annual revenue. The company, which employs over 5,000 people, works together with 8 million businesses across the globe. A plethora of companies, including Viator ($200 million), The Fork ($140 million), LaFourchette, and many more have been acquired by TripAdvisor in the process.
The methodology with which competitors of TripAdvisor are ranked is based on publicly available information. Data points such as revenue, number of listings and bookings, funding and valuation, the amount of reviews, the number of employees, and anything else that might be relevant will be considered.
We take both booking sites as well as review platforms into account. In fact, almost all prominent booking sites now also feature extensive reviews of the places and services customers can purchase.
It has to be noted that this analysis should not be seen as an endorsement of any of the platforms presented. It is merely a summary of the competition that TripAdvisor is confronted with right now.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 7 competitors of TripAdvisor.
1. Google Travel
Headquarters: Mountain View, California Founder(s): Google Year Founded: 2011
Google is probably the biggest competitor to TripAdvisor, especially when it comes to the firm’s capability to gather reviews and embed them into its travel product. Google Travel consumers to compare prices and book all types of travel-related items, including flights, hotels, and vacation rentals.
Its advances in travel have begun as early as 2004 when the search giant launched Google Maps. The mapping product now informs a large portion of the activities that Google recommends. Businesses and destinations can also be rated. This is particularly beneficial for mobile usage where Maps comes into play.
Google has since heavily expanded its capabilities in travel. In 2010, for instance, it purchased flight information software company ITA for $700 million. The acquisition enabled them to launch their own flight and hotel booking features.
Google does currently not publicize any traffic or revenue figures for Travel – with good reason. In the past, co-founder Kaufer called out Google for its allegedly anti-competitive practices of favoring its own products.
Many searches are now prominently featuring Google’s own products over TripAdvisor. This, in turn, has forced TripAdvisor to purchase ads on Google so that the traffic continues to flow to the platform. Unfortunately, this severely cuts into TripAdvisor’s profit margins whereas Google can continue to attract users for free.
Headquarters: Amsterdam, The Netherlands Founder(s): Geert-Jan Bruinsma Year Founded: 1996
Booking.com, the namesake site behind travel’s biggest holding company, offers anything from flights to hotels. The site is available in 43 languages and has closer to 100 million reviews published on it.
It has since tried to expand into TripAdvisor’s turf by prominently featuring travel inspiration pieces on its homepage. Both the activities as well as stays on its platform now contain extensive reviews, which continue to grow as their relevance increases.
The site itself was launched by Dutch university graduate Geert-Jan Bruinsma who became frustrated with the lack of hotel booking options in his home country. When he visited Hilton’s newly launched website for the first time, it immediately clicked – and prompted him to create a copycat version for travelers from and into the Netherlands.
In 2000, he agreed to merge with another site called Bookings Online. The dot-com crash had wiped out many of the funding opportunities previously available to startups like his.
They then acquired the Booking.com domain name soon after. Ironically, Expedia, which is probably its biggest competitor, tried to acquire Booking for close to two years. However, Booking eventually sold to Priceline for $133 million in 2005.
For most of its existence, Booking.com had been part of Priceline. However, in 2018, it rebranded into Booking Holdings to align the company with what it was (and still is) known for: booking online travel. That holding company now encompasses some of the world’s biggest travel brands including Agoda, KAYAK, RentalsCars.com, OpenTable, and more.
In 2021, Booking Holdings, which unfortunately doesn’t break down income figures for its namesake site, generated $11 billion in revenue. Gross bookings were equal to $76.6 billion over that timespan. Booking.com itself employs over 15,000 people across the globe.
Ironically, both Booking, as well as Expedia, are also some of the biggest spenders on TripAdvisor, which primarily makes money via advertising and subscriptions.
Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington Founder(s): Rich Barton, Richard Bangs Year Founded: 1996
Expedia is the second-biggest holding company in the travel space right behind Booking. The combined company generates $8.6 billion in revenue (2021) and operates brands such as Hotels.com, trivago, Vrbo, and many more.
However, Expedia’s main site, Expedia.com, is certainly nothing to scoff at either. Expedia.com, just like the other platforms on this list, has added both reviews as well as travel inspiration to its existing offering, which entails booking flights, hotels, and other things.
Expedia itself was created as a sub-division of Microsoft with the purpose of being promoted on the firm’s MSN portal. Rich Barton, at the time, had just transferred from Microsoft’s CD-ROM division into the multimedia department, which was tasked with expanding the reach of MSN.
Three years after it launched in 1996, Expedia was spun out of Microsoft (the first time Microsoft did something like this) and went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange. In 2003, Barry Diller’s IAC acquired a controlling stake in Expedia. Two years later, it spun off its travel division to create Expedia Group.
As previously stated, Expedia vis-à-vis had also owned TripAdvisor for close to seven years until the latter was spun off. This is normally done when investors believe that the company being spun off can create more value by being on its own and portions of its value buried in the firm it is owned by.
Headquarters: San Francisco, California Founder(s): Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk Year Founded: 2008
Airbnb is the world’s largest apartment booking platform. It now boasts six million listings, counts four million hosts, and is available in 100,000 cities and towns as well as 220+ countries across the globe.
Reviews are obviously an integral part of the Airbnb experience as well. They often significantly increase the likelihood of a customer booking a place or experience, which is facilitated via the platform as well.
Airbnb has been subject to dozens of legal battles throughout its existence. Cities across the world claimed that hosts were running illegal hotels and were thus liable to pay taxes. Cities like New York have hammered down on those hosts, sometimes even imposing seven-figure fines on them.
Other issues that Airbnb has been associated with include alleged (but yet to be proven) rent increases as well as the distribution of apartments (or simply theft). Some hosts have also been caught spying on their guests in the past.
Airbnb, despite those issues, has been an investor darling throughout its existence. The founders have raised a combined $6.5 billion during Airbnb’s life as a private company.
The firm ultimately went public in December 2020 and is currently valued at over $60 billion. In 2021, Airbnb has generated close to $6 billion in revenue. It employs over 6,000 people worldwide.
In the past, Airbnb has also tried contemplated expanding into other areas of travel including flight bookings. Those initiatives have been (temporarily) abandoned to focus on the firm’s revenue-generating segments.
Headquarters: Shanghai, China Founder(s): James Liang, Min Fan, Neil Shen, Travis Katz Year Founded: 1999
Trip.com Group is China’s largest travel site with close to 34,000 employees. Travelers can book anything from flights, trains, stays, cars, tours, cruises, activities, and much more.
However, that hasn’t always been the case. Trip.com actually started out as Ctrip and was China’s local answer to TripAdvisor, allowing users to review hotels and other types of venues in the country.
Those early days were particularly tough, especially when the SARS virus decimated travel across the country. However, being one of the first companies in travel gave Ctrip enough of a runway to survive. It certainly helped that the firm went public in 2003, which added enough capital to its balance sheet to weather any future storm.
In 2019, Ctrip rebranded into Trip.com (after it acquired the firm two years prior) to highlight the firm’s greater international ambitions. This has been particularly important given China’s Zero-Covid policy, which has severely restricted travel demand into and out of the country.
Today, over 1.2 million accommodations are available on Trip.com. The holding company behind Trip.com also owns other sites, most notably Ctrip as well as Skyscanner (which it purchased for around $1.6 billion).
In 2021, Trip.com generated $1.1 billion in revenue. Recently, the firm became the first publicly-traded company in China to implement a hybrid work-from-home policy.
Headquarters: Singapore Founder(s): Robert Rosenstein, Michael Kenny Year Founded: 2005
Agoda is another metasearch engine aggregating offerings for stays, hotels, activities, airport transfers, and more. The platform also offers its own rewards program dubbed PointsMAX.
The firm’s founder, Michael Kenny, first arrived in Southeast Asia in 1994 to work for the Arcadia Hotel Group (now Hilton). As the internet began to take shape, he launched various travel-related sites such as PlanetHoliday.com (1997) and PrecisionReservations.com (2003).
Those sites were eventually merged and led to the creation of agoda.com. To help him get the business off the ground, he recruited long-time friend and experienced online entrepreneur Rosenstein as a co-founder. A mere two years after launching, Agoda was acquired by Booking Holdings for an undisclosed amount.
Agoda, even though founder Rosenstein stepped down from his CEO position after 10 years (back in 2018), continues to be one of the world’s most popular booking sites.
It is widely considered the leading platform in Southeast Asia where it continues to have strong roots. The firm’s Bangkok office, for example, continues to be one of the country’s largest.
Booking does currently not disclose revenue numbers for Agoda, which employs over 4,000 people in 30 countries.
Headquarters: San Francisco, California Founder(s): Jeremy Stoppelman, Russel Simmons Year Founded: 2004
Yelp is another review giant that primarily competes with TripAdvisor across its restaurant section. Close to 250 million reviews have been published on the platform thus far.
Users can even reserve restaurants directly on Yelp. Apart from restaurants, users can rate all kinds of services including home services such as plumbers, beauty spas, nightclubs, and many more categories.
Both Stoppelman and Simmons had previously worked for PayPal before launching Yelp, which Stoppelman conceived when he was in need of a doctor but couldn’t find a suitable one. Yelp, despite its meteoric rise, which culminated in the firm’s IPO in 2012, has also been subject to criticism.
For example, many business owners have lamented the firm’s predatory practices in the past. They claimed that the platform pressured them into purchasing ads and would otherwise be penalized with bad reviews, which would be more prominently featured. This is particularly ironic given that CEO Stoppelman has frequently called out Google for its own anti-competitive practices.
Today, Yelp generates around $1 billion of revenue on an annual basis. Restaurants remain the firm’s strongest category, which continues to make the firm a formidable competitor to TripAdvisor.