In playing the ‘long game,’ TripAdvisor incurs some short-term pain

TripAdvisor’s shift of its marketing dollars to brand-building channels, such as its television advertising campaign, “has contributed to softer topline results,” chief executive officer Stephen Kaufer said, “but we believe this is the best path towards driving profitable revenue growth over the long-term.”

That reallocation caused third-quarter click-based and transaction revenue and revenue per hotel shopper to decline by 5% and 11%, respectively, leading to negative 3% hotel segment revenue growth.

“Reigniting our near-term hotel revenue growth has proven more challenging than we expected this quarter and this year,” added chief financial officer Ernst Teunissen.

“But our product and marketing initiatives continue to deliver early positive signs, and we are optimizing our marketing mix for maximum long-term benefit.”

The focus on the long term earned TripAdvisor a bit of punishment on Wall Street, which tends to prefer immediate gratification.

Hotel revcnue was down 3% year over year, to $312 million.

Following the release of the results, shares dropped 6.68%.

Brighter news came out of the non-hotel sector, comprising attractions, restaurants and vacation rentals, where “strong momentum continues” and revenue was up 26%, Kaufer said.

Such products deepen traveler engagement with the TripAdvisor platform, he said.

“In both segments, we have a lot more work to do, but we play the long game and remain focused on building for the long-term,” Kaufer said.

In remarks accompanying the company’s earnings release, TripAdvisor said television advertising accounted for a significant part of the $48 million year-over-year decline in third-quarter hotel segment adjusted EBITDA.

The company has been able to make return-on-ad spend improvements in this channel, a trend that it expects to continue as it further optimizes the campaign.

In summary, the company said:

“We are making progress against our 2017 initiatives. Product and marketing have shown early positive signs, and we are optimizing our marketing mix for maximum long-term benefit. The near-term will remain volatile, but we are confident that we are on the right path. In the meantime, we are managing our investment levels to mitigate near-term bottom line impacts as we pursue our long-term goals.”

TripAdvisor reported third-quarter net income of $25 million, down 55% from the same period of 2016. Total revenue was up 4%, to $439 million.

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