Technology

Lonely Planet moves into OTA territory with new acquisition

In a move that is set to put it up against online travel agencies, Lonely Planet has announced the acquisition of tech start-up TRILL Travel.

Founded in NYC in 2017, TRILL is an invite-only marketplace for influencers to monetise their social travel content and guide consumers to book their next travel experience, powered by user-generated content.

Leveraging AI technology, TRILL analyses pictures and automatically creates links to booking sites. This allows users to book a hotel, experience, or table at a restaurant by simply touching a picture.

By combining Lonely Planet’s ‘Pathfinders’ with TRILL’s current ‘tastemakers’ (these are the companies’ respective terms for influencers), Lonely Planet is poised to have one of the largest influencer networks in the market.

This is the second acquisition that Lonely Planet has made since Cabrera joined the travel guide publisher in February this year, having also purchased destination information platform ArrivalGuides.

“We are looking at this acquisition from an asset perspective,” he said.

“We want to incorporate TRILL’s tech and capabilities into our digital products and soon reimagine our Pathfinders program.

“TRILL is another example of how we strive to enable a seamless user journey and interaction between influencers posting content, consumers looking for adventure, and our travel partners.

To attract and incentivise influencers, Lonely Planet will also adopt TRILL’s revenue share model, which automatically pays out commissions for confirmed bookings tied to each individual post.

“This dual-sided marketplace helps travel brands drive direct bookings through organic social content, and acts as a monetisation platform for content creators,” Cabrera said.

TRILL founder and CEO Eric Shepard said: “About 70 per cent of Instagram content is travel-related, and consumers are constantly looking to recreate these experiences.

“I also saw a large movement in socially-driven commerce, especially in the fashion space, and thought, ‘why can’t this be done in travel? Let’s put these pieces together.’”

Reporting directly to Cabrera, Shepard will play a large role in Lonely Planet’s venture experiments going forward.

His first initiative will be integrating TRILL’s technology and model into Lonely Planet’s digital properties, then focusing on finding further transformative adjacent spaces in travel.

“Lonely Planet is the perfect platform to fully realise the potential of TRILL,” Shepard said.

“I’m extremely excited to be part of this new chapter at Lonely Planet and look forward to finding other ‘TRILLs’ out there looking to push the envelope and thrive.”

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