What: Online travel destination TripAdvisor's (TRIP -1.50%) stock rose 14.3% in June, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. The surge reversed a slow downward drift since March, which had essentially erased TripAdvisor's gains for the year. As a result, TRIP is up 14.7% to date in 2015.
So What: TripAdvisor shares found their footing after the company announced an expansion of its partnership with Marriott International (MAR -2.14%). Marriott has now joined TripAdvisor's "Instant Booking" platform, which allows visitors to TripAdvisor to book a stay at partner hotels without leaving TripAdvisor's site.
The Marriott name serves as a significant endorsement of the fledgling platform, which is just over one year old, and could previously only boast of a handful of franchises, including Best Western and Choice Hotels, as early adopters. Major hospitality groups have been wary of Instant Booking, as branding during a purchase transaction on the system is shared with TripAdvisor. This is in contrast to a traditional online referral, in which a traveler leaves a site like TripAdvisor to conclude his reservation on a hotel chain's own web-based reservation system.
Under the agreement, Instant Booking will have access to Marriott's 19 brands and 4,200 hotels globally later this summer. TripAdvisor believes that Instant Booking provides a quicker and more efficient reservation process for travelers. Marriott clearly sees value in tapping TripAdvisor's deeply engaged users as well. These users comprise a massive content community, which at last count, was adding to 225 million existing destination reviews at the rate of 193 per minute.
Now What: Management hasn't yet revealed Instant Booking's conversion rates versus its standard "metasearch" format, and it may be several quarters before the company releases metrics that address the platform's profitability. But there's evidence that initial results are positive: TripAdvisor has started beta testing Instant Booking for mobile devices in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. And management indicated in the company's most recent earnings call with analysts that independent hotels "in the thousands" are now taking bookings on the platform.
Marriott sees the potential for new customers through a deeper level of partnership. This should worry TripAdvisor's competitors, including Expedia. Instant Booking creates an opportunity for TRIP to transcend the "necessary evil" reputation online travel services have among the major hotel groups. Shareholders should expect TripAdvisor to try to capitalize on the Marriott endorsement as rapidly as possible; we're likely to see more high-profile deals announced soon.