Kayak (NASDAQ:KYAK), the leading U.S. meta-search engine now acquired by Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN), got more than just a simple makeover this week. In addition to updating its homepage design with enhanced search that uses fewer parameters, the site also launched a new hotel review feature. Hotel search results on Kayak now include aggregated user review information from leading travel sites such as Booking.com, Priceline.com and Travelocity. The company is also working to integrate review content from other travel sites including Expedia and Hotels.com.  A more significant change is that TripAdvisor (NASDAQ:TRIP), the world’s largest travel review website whose review content and ratings for hotels were earlier accessible on Kayak, has been dropped from the new review feature.
Why We Think TripAdvisor Was Dropped
In February 2012, Kayak and TripAdvisor entered into a partnership to allow users to see TripAdvisor reviews and filter hotel listings by TripAdvisor ratings on Kayak’s website.  However, TripAdvisor launched its own hotel meta-search feature towards the end of 2012 which increased direct competition for Kayak and Trivago (now acquired by Expedia), the leading meta-search companies in the U.S. and Europe respectively.  Hence, we believe the launch of its own review feature is a response by Kayak to stay abreast with competition.
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TripAdvisor reviews and the dedicated filter for hotel listings by TripAdvisor ratings exist no more on Kayak’s website. Instead, search results now include aggregated user rating scores, a feature similar to TripAdvisor’s ‘Popularity Index’ for hotels.  Dedicated filters for hotel listings are now available by Jetsetter, Travel & Leisure and Lonely Planet ratings.  Although Kayak explained that it wants to source only verified reviews (TripAdvisor doesn’t use verified reviews), in our view the company’s motivation to drop TripAdvisor from its new hotel review feature is to give competition to TripAdvisor in its own travel review industry.
How Users Will Benefit From The Launch
1. Simplified Hotel Search: The new homepage has simplified hotel search by reducing the number of search parameters and neatly placing all boxes in one line. Other popular meta-search engines such as Google Hotel Finder and Trivago have a similar design. The advertisements and user history that earlier appeared on the homepage are also gone, making the content easier to read. 
2. Aggregated Review Scores: Hotel search results on Kayak now include review summaries and aggregated user rating score based on a computer-generated sentiment analysis of reviews of over 400,000 hotels worldwide. This feature is similar to the preferred ‘TripAdvisor Popularity Index’ and will help travelers make informed decisions. 
3. Verified Content: Fake reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor have always been a major concern for travelers. Kayak’s new review feature sources hotel reviews from guests who book through leading travel sites and whose stay at the hotels is verified, confirming the authenticity of posted reviews. 
- Aggregated , Hotel User Reviews And A Simpler Homepage, KAYAK Blog, August 26, 2013 [↩]
- KAYAK Partners With TripAdvisor, KAYAK Blog, February 16, 2012 [↩]
- TripAdvisor’s Strong Growth Overcome Meta Display Transition, Trefis, July 25, 2013 [↩]
- Kayak Drops TripAdvisor Hotel Reviews, Adds Its Own User Ratings, Skift, August 26, 2013 [↩] [↩]
- Aggregated , Hotel User Reviews And A Simpler Homepage, KAYAK Blog, August 26, 2013 [↩] [↩]
- KAYAK Homepage Redesign Keeps Pace With Its Biggest Rivals, Skift, August 26, 2013 [↩]