TripAdvisor Grows From Afar

The CFO of TripAdvisor, Julie Bradley, talks about how the travel site is growing into new countries without actually going there.

Where is the company looking to grow?
Today we talk about our percent of market penetration. TripAdvisor is the largest travel website in the world. But when it comes to the total amount of online shoppers, we’re only about 11 percent [penetrated]. In our core products, we have a long way to go to take market share domestically and on a global basis.

But we can do a lot from the offices we have today to expand into [new] territories. We don’t need to open an office in Russia, for instance, to increase the revenue that’s generated from Russian consumers. We can translate our site into the local language and set up that URL. There’s a lot of localization that we can do, but it doesn’t mean we need to be in the country.

The barrier to entry for [potential competitors] is the amount of content that we’ve built. Could XYZ company come in and compete with TripAdvisor in Thailand? We’re not both starting from the same level. We’re able to to replicate our global website, put it in the right language and currency, and [acquire] local partners.

We also benefit from the adoption of online travel research and booking, as people progress from going to the travel agent down the street to pay cash for their hotel booking toward doing their deals online

What are your biggest challenges as a CFO in this industry?
We move at a rapid pace. The CEO has a sign on his door that says ‘speed wins.’ We live by that. That’s a huge motivating tool, but it means we’re constantly in rapid change. We’re also driven by consumers. So our traffic depends on what’s happening in the world overall: weather patterns, religious holidays and things like that. If it’s a credit crisis, a drought, a heat wave, the Olympics, there are [many] inputs to understand where revenues are going to shake out.

We’re constantly looking for new ideas to invest in that future and for top talent. We have an insatiable thirst for the best and the brightest across engineers and product marketers. All those moving pieces keep me on my toes. If [my job] were counting widgets, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be bored.


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