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TripAdvisor Inc (TRIP) Q3 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

TripAdvisor Inc Earnings Call - Final Transcript

TripAdvisor Inc (NASDAQ:TRIP) Q3 2022 Earnings Call dated Nov. 08, 2022.

Corporate Participants:

Angela White — Vice President of Investor Relations

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Mike Noonan — Incoming Chief Financial Officer

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

Richard Clarke — Sanford C. Bernstein — Analyst

Naved Khan — Truist Securities — Analyst

Lloyd Walmsley — UBS — Analyst

Jed Kelly — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

James Lee — Mizuho — Analyst

Mario Lu — Barclays — Analyst

Brian Fitzgerald — WFS — Analyst

John Colantuoni — Jefferies — Analyst

Ron Josey — Citi — Analyst

Deepak Mathivanan — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Vince Ciepiel — Cleveland Research Company — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Good morning, and thank you for standing-by. Welcome to the TripAdvisor Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker today, Angelo White. Please go ahead.

Angela White — Vice President of Investor Relations

Thanks, Corey. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Trip Advisors third-quarter 2022 financial results call. Joining me today are Matt Goldberg, President and CEO; Ernst Teunissen, outgoing CFO; and Mike Noonan, who joined us as incoming CFO, effective October 31, 2022.

Last night, after market closed, we distributed and filed our earnings release and made available our shareholder letter on our Investor Relations website. In the release, you’ll find reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures to the most comparable GAAP financial measure discussed on this call. Also, on our Investor Relations website, you will find supplemental financial information, which also includes reconciliations of certain non-GAAP financial measures discussed on this call, as well as other metrics.

Before we begin, I’d like to remind you that this call may contain estimates and other forward-looking statements that represent management’s view, as of today, November 8, 2022. TripAdvisor disclaims any obligation to update these statements to reflect future events or circumstances. Please refer to our earnings release, as well as our filings with the SEC for information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those forward-looking statements.

With that, I will turn the call over to Matt.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Angela. And good morning to everyone joining the call. As Angela mentioned, on the call with me today are Ernst Teunissen, outgoing CFO; and Mike Noonan, who started just over a week ago. In mid October, we announced the CFO transition, and I’m pleased to have both Ernst and Mike on this call.

I want to start by welcoming Mike to his first earnings call today with TripAdvisor. Many of our listeners know Mike already and understand why we are so excited to have him as a member of our leadership team, given his strong track-record and deep industry experience. This is an exciting time to join TripAdvisor, and we have no doubt, he will hit the ground running. I also want to recognize Ernst and thank him for his steady leadership as a steward of capital, trusted colleague, role model and friend. We’re excited for him as he thinks about his next chapter and grateful for his commitment to a seamless hand over to Mike.

Now to the quarter. We were pleased to publish the results shared in last night’s release and shareholder letter. We exceeded expectations and Q3 was also the first-quarter that we surpassed 2019 levels on a consolidated revenue basis at 107%, accelerating from 99% last quarter. It’s worth-mentioning that this was also our highest quarter of revenue on record at $459 million, not by much, but a record nonetheless. We provided a thorough outlay of quarterly results last night, but I’d like to take a moment to cover a few highlights before turning to some bigger-picture items.

Each segment of the TripAdvisor business delivered a notable performance in Q3. First, Viator led the way in revenue growth and recovery rates at 179% of 2019 levels, accelerating from 160% last quarter. This represents a 138% growth year-over-year. We’re excited about the large and growing market opportunity to connect global travelers to memorable experiences. The team is executing effectively with a lean cost structure and we’re seeing their efforts bear fruit. Investments in the shift to mobile, higher product quality, programs for suppliers and marketing are driving higher take rates, record new customers and improved repeat rates. As a result, we saw record revenue and gross bookings, which year-to-date have crossed over the $2 billion mark.

At TheFork, we continue to see the business recover in Q3 to 103% of 2019 levels, a strong showing, particularly with an estimated negative impact of 9% due to currency headwinds. Targeted investments in our products, technology and marketing are starting to generate the desired results. We’re seeing strong mobile app downloads and unique visitors on an aggregate basis that compare favorably to other global players. We believe we’re building loyalty and better lifetime value economics with our customers with increasing numbers of direct bookings through the app and from repeat customers.

Finally, in our core TripAdvisor segment, we also executed a strong quarter with sequential improvement in recovery to 88% of 2019, up from 84% last quarter. Our branded hotels business reached 95% of 2019 levels, up from 89% last quarter, driven by continued recovery in our hotel meta or hotel auction as we called it in the past. We believe this is a clear sign that demand for travel remains healthy and that we are driving value for our customers and our partners, which we will continue to reinforce.

The TripAdvisor experiences in dining revenue stream was a notable standout, recovering 125% of 2019 levels, up from 117% last quarter, as we continue to build relationships with travelers looking for more than hotels. In our Hotel B2B and media offerings, which have largely mirrored trends in hotel marketing and shifts in the advertising market, we’ve recovered at 79% and 80% of 2019 levels respectively, and our teams continue to lean-in to the opportunity to serve our partners even more effectively. Across the board, we had a strong quarter performance, and I really want to thank the teams for maintaining focus and delivering strong results.

Next, I’d like to take the opportunity to share some thoughts on my first 100 days in the role. On my first-call in August, I mentioned some key reasons I joined TripAdvisor, including the company’s enduring assets that I believe would set the path for the future. A few that I mentioned were, a far-reaching brand built on trust, a diverse set of assets across our segments, a large global audience making meaningful content contributions, a wealth of data to leverage across the group, and colleagues and culture steeped in our purpose of connecting people to experiences worth sharing.

Now, here in my second call, I can confirm my initial belief that these assets provide a strong foundation from which to re-imagine our future. I’ve had the chance to travel to many of our offices, discuss opportunities with our teams, compare observations with other thought leaders in the travel industry, and talk to customers and partners. What is abundantly clear is that we play a critical role in an attractive travel ecosystem with numerous paths for growth in this dynamic and fast-moving environment.

As a starting point, we believe that people are increasingly seeking ways to reconnect with the world making the most of their precious time and resources as they prioritize meaningful experiences above material consumption. Our goal is to connect people to experiences worth sharing, which is paramount after years of isolation during the pandemic and the perception of increasingly disconnected and divided world. TripAdvisor group represents a family of brands with a shared mission to be the world’s most trusted source for travel and experiences. We can deliver this across brand TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform; Viator, the leading marketplace for in destination bookable experiences; TheFork, Europe’s leading online dining reservation platform; and Cruise Critic, the largest cruise committee in the community and the world.

Our opportunity is to build on a relationship of trust, one of our most precious assets, and one that we will continue to reinforce and enhance. We are well-positioned to capture the secular shift in consumer demand from physical goods to experiences, which we expect to fuel the future of leisure travel.

I also recognize that we have not always executed on our ambition as effectively as possible or made the most of all our assets and capabilities. While the business has bounced back, well from the pandemic, there are opportunities to reinforce our relevance and create even more value for travelers, experience seekers, diners and our partners.

This leads me to an area of focus where I’ve spent much of my time in the last few months. Kicking off work to align the company around a clear set of strategic priorities starting with the core TripAdvisor brand. While it’s too early to share specifics, what I can say is that we’re taking the time to re-imagine the unique role we play in travel, where we can address consumer pain points and how we can further differentiate ourselves on our future path.

Together, with our talented employees who are subject matter experts, we’ve embarked on a structured process to evaluate our business. Take a fact-based data-driven view and set the path for a clear and compelling strategy. And our team is energized by the opportunity.

My mission is to make sure we continue to evolve so that we can serve travelers, diners and experience seekers for decades to come. And this means that the traveler experience will be at the center of everything we do. We will lean into the strengths for which we’re known, reinforce our value proposition and identify new ways to drive sustainable growth. As we do so, we will seek to build enduring relationships with travelers, leverage our data to better understand and address their needs and create a highly engaging experience for the consumer and our partners.

Before I turn the call over to Mike and Ernst, I want to reiterate how excited I am to be here, how pleased I am with the quarter’s results, and how much I am looking-forward to continuing to work on setting our priorities and sharing more with you on that in the future.

As we close-out the year and look-forward to 2023, we’ve heard a lot about high-interest rates, questions about consumer spending, the rising cost of goods and services, recessionary pressures across the globe, and the impact all this will have on travel. However, from our vantage point, it’s too early to point to indicators that would tell us one-way or the other where things will land next year.

Travel remains robust and our internal data suggests that a majority of travelers plan to travel the same or more over the coming months, and many are even willing to spend more. We’ve also observed that cost and affordability is becoming more important when planning a trip, and consumers are likely to be more diligent as they research a trip and decide what to book. This may create opportunity for us as we seek to address consumer preferences, and we also acknowledge that as financial situations shift, the consumer may adjust.

Regardless of near or medium-term external macro conditions, we have conviction about the resilience of our portfolio of brands. Our positioning as a trusted source for travel and experiences is an enduring long-term opportunity and I’m excited at the work we’re doing to ensure that TripAdvisor group continues to play a vital role in our industry for years to come.

Now, I’d like to turn the call over to Mike to say a few words. Mike?

Mike Noonan — Incoming Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Matt, and good morning, everyone. I’m very pleased to be here and join the call. I’ve known TripAdvisor for a good number of years and it’s a company I’ve long respected and followed. It’s been clear that the opportunity to travel and experiences continues to evolve and innovate, and I’m excited to be part of this innovation at TripAdvisor.

I’m particularly looking-forward to joining at this juncture, working to establish our strategic priorities and solidify near and long-term planning. It’s very early days for me and I will certainly take advantage of the transition period Ernst is providing. But I’m also looking-forward to providing the team with a fresh perspective and leveraging my background and experience.

Matt talked about the work we’ve been doing to set strategic priorities regarding 2023. Given where we are in our planning cycle, and importantly, in setting our strategic goals, it’s premature at this time to provide thoughts on our outlook for 2023. However, we believe we have an opportunity to lean into a large and growing travel and experiences market. In light of this opportunity, we will assess areas of investment, opportunities to reallocate capital, as well as look for ways to continue to drive operating efficiencies. We will continue to do so with a disciplined ROI driven approach. I’m looking-forward to catching-up with everyone over the coming weeks.

Now, to Ernst to cover the results.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Mike, and good morning, everyone. We had a great quarter, exceeding expectations and reaching $459 million in revenue which was a 51% increase over last year and reaching 107% of 2019, while currency was an estimated 5% headwind to growth versus 2019. Adjusted EBITDA also exceeded expectations at $115 million or 25% of revenue. Free-cash flow was $46 million, reflecting typical seasonality and we had about $1.1 billion of cash-and-cash equivalents.

In addition, both year-on year and compared to 2019, our fixed and discretionary cost as a percentage of revenue have come down, resulting in adjusted EBITDA margins in the TripAdvisor core segment at pre-pandemic levels. We were also pleased to see Viator deliver its first profitable quarter since the pandemic started and at levels that exceeded those in 2019. And I know that Viator segment EBITDA is above 2019 for year-to-date as well. We achieved that with massive revenue growth.

We provided our outlook for Q4 in the shareholder letter that we published last night, with some details on some of the puts and takes to the 2019 comparison. I wanted to highlight the following. Operationally, nothing material has changed from Q3 to Q4 in core TripAdvisor. We are seeing the same revenue trends continue from September. The only material operational change in Q4 is the increased investment in Viator, which we started in Q3.

For the core, if you take-out some of the one-offs in Q4 2019 as the comparison point, growth in TripAdvisor core in October and November and December is like July and September as a percentage of 2019. In the core, we have a — we’ve had a — we have a larger EBITDA margin step-down from Q3 to Q4 than we had in 2019 for reasons of the cost profile in Q3 and Q4 of 2019, not material increases in spending this year. There are obviously many puts and takes regarding comparisons three years ago that we understand makes it challenging to compare quarter-to-quarter performance versus prior periods.

We are excited to be investing in Viator in Q4, while keeping combined Q3 and Q4 EBITDA to be approximately breakeven. We are investing, not only because of the strong top-line performance this year but also the underlying customer economics have moved very favorable.

Before I close-out the prepared remarks, I want to take this opportunity to say that it’s been a pleasure working with all of you over the last seven years. I believe TripAdvisor is an amazing brand, an amazing company, and will always hold a special place for me, and I will continue to watch its progress. My transition ends up the year — at year end and I feel very good passing on the baton to Mike.

With that, I’ll turn the call over to the operator and begin Q&A.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you very much. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Richard Clarke at Sanford C. Bernstein. Richard, your line is open.

Richard Clarke — Sanford C. Bernstein — Analyst

Thanks, Joe. Thanks for taking my question. I guess we need to start with the Q4 10% EBITDA guidance. So just to unpick what you’re saying, you were saying that the drop-off from Q3 to Q4, it’s just the 2019 seasonal effect. Maybe you can just remind us what that seasonal effect is? And what was the 2019 Q4 margin kind of ex those seasonal effects in 2019? And then thinking ahead to 2023, obviously, your margin in Q4 is going to be 17% lower than it was in Q4 2019. Should we carry a large chunk of that 17% lower into 2023, or does a large slice of that reverse as we think into next year?

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Richard. Yes, a few puts and takes. And thanks for the question. And hopefully, we will clarify it to your satisfaction. So, the first comment is, there is always a seasonal decline from Q3 to Q4 in EBITDA margin and that is because there is a seasonal decline in revenue from Q3 to Q4, and therefore fixed-cost coverage is is unfavorable in Q4. So that’s the general trend that’s always, always happening. Additional to our consolidate, if you compare to 2019, in addition to our — for our consolidated results, is of course that the waiting for Viator, where we are incurring a loss, projected loss in Q4 is much larger than it was in 2019. So you have a mix-shift overall there as well.

If you go to the core and compare it to 2019, we have in 2019 a very limited seasonal step-down in EBITDA margin from 30% — sorry, from the 34 — I apologize — from a marginal step-back from 39% — from 40% to 39%. Sorry, I was fumbling a little bit. From 40% to 39%, a very small step-back in 2019 in TripAdvisor core. And the reason for that was that we had a number of fixed costs in Q3 and Q4 that were different. So we had a step-down of about $20 million of unique cost from Q3 to Q4. One was TV advertising, that stepped down meaningfully from Q3 to Q4.

And the other one was, a reversal of a bonus accrual that we did in Q4 at 2019. And so that made the step-down much less pronounced than it would typically have been. That was a major impact. And if you take all those things together, the seasonal decline that we’re projecting between Q3 and Q4 is typical, but for the additional investment we’re making in the Viator brand.

Richard Clarke — Sanford C. Bernstein — Analyst

Okay. And then just how should we think about those effects as we run into 2023? What is then going to be the headwind to margins into 2023 from the effects you’re giving?

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Well — so the comparison to 2019, hopefully will be in the rear-view mirror as we move into next year and we’ll have some more normalized trends. There are just so many puts and takes if you compare to 2019 because the profile of our business was different. The other difference there was in 2019 was we had a few businesses that we are no longer consolidating. We had our China business, which is deconsolidated. We had our smarter travel business, which we discontinued. We had very different mix between different lines — revenue lines and segments. And so the comparison to 2019 it is — it’s always going to be very difficult. Hopefully, into next year we will have a more normalized comparison to the trends that you’ve seen in ’22.

Richard Clarke — Sanford C. Bernstein — Analyst

Okay, thanks, Ernst.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. And I think I would just add that, you’ve got this Viator investment that’s unique to this quarter and that could be a differential as well.

Richard Clarke — Sanford C. Bernstein — Analyst

Okay. Okay. That’s a one quarter investment. Got you.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Well, it started in Q3 and extended into Q4, so it’s a Q3, Q4 2022 investment.

Richard Clarke — Sanford C. Bernstein — Analyst

Right. Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Please stand-by for our next question. Our next question comes from Naved Khan at Truist Securities. Naved, your line is open.

Naved Khan — Truist Securities — Analyst

Yes, hi. Thank you. Ernst, we’ll miss you on these calls, and Mike, welcome. So, a couple of questions. Maybe the first one from me would be just on the branded ad campaign that you did for Viator. Can you just maybe talk about the relative size of this campaign and what kind of payback you’re expecting and over what time period?

And then, Matt, you spoke about, maybe some cost and affordability becoming more important to the travelers. Can you maybe just elaborate a little bit more on what you’re seeing out there? Are you seeing people doing more searches? Or are you seeing more price sensitivity? A little more color there would be helpful. Thank you.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Naved. I’ll take the first part of it. We’ve said that for Viator we expect to be roughly breakeven on the EBITDA between Q3 and Q4 which dimensionalizes the loss for you of Viator in Q4. Without the brand investments in Q4, we would have been breakeven plus on Viator for the quarter as well, which gives you a little bit of a sense of the magnitude. We started this investment in Q3 already but at a lower level. I just want to say a few things about why we’re doing this and why we’re doing this now.

Obviously, Viator has been on a spectacular path this year. But as we have been sort of observing the underlying economics underneath, we’ve seen improvements in conversion rate. We’ve seen improvements in the number of items people book per trip. We’ve seen improvements in trips per traveler, retention rate, take-up rate. And so all of these things multiply to an increasing estimate of lifetime value that we have, an improvement of cohorts that we have. And so that’s been very encouraging underneath.

We have nice loyalty and repeat from those users that have used us on Viator, but our awareness among the broader populous is still somewhat limited. And so we believe that by sort of targeted and sort of thoughtful and measuring ROI along the way, investments that are a little bit more across the funnel, we can take advantage of these underlying improvements that we’ve taken and reach a broader audience. We’re playing to win with Viator, We think we are in excellent position to be the global leader in this exciting category and we’re going continue to invest in that.

So, some of you may have seen us a little bit more than before on channels like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Podcasts, Spotify, and we are excited about. It’s a relatively — still relatively modest but for us a large investment at Viator and we’re going to really carefully monitor what the impact is that we see as we think about the plans for next year.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. And I would just say before I get into your question about the consumer, Naved. Viator, we are so excited about this asset. We think there are lots of ways of leaning in. And the team is really executing well. The category is poised to continue to accelerate and we think market leadership has tremendous value. So it’s something that we’re just really excited about and I know we’ll be talking a lot about as we go-forward.

On the consumer, yes, we’re following the consumer very closely. And you asked about what we’re seeing, definitely searches are up across the board, searches for hotels, experiences and restaurants. But we are seeing in our data that inflationary pressures, while people want to continue spending, they’re thinking about how they might adjust their travel plans.

And so with rising cost of living, many more are going to be traveling at shorter length than maybe they had planned in the past. Some are going to think about vacations being much closer to home. It maybe you were thinking about going international, you might go domestic. And of course, they are also thinking about what they’re going to do on that trip. And what we are seeing is they still want to take the trip with a large majority, but that they’ll be thoughtful.

We think there is an advantage there as they think about comparing pricing, as they think about making that choice. That sort of ability to guide the consumer through a period of time from real people, who are having real experiences. And then, at that moment, when they want to make that decision, helping to make it happen, I think it plays right to our strength. So the consumer behavior is very promising by and large, but of course, some adjustments based on personal financial situations.

Naved Khan — Truist Securities — Analyst

Thank you, Matt. Thank you, Ernst.

Operator

Thank you. Please stand-by for our next caller. Next step is Lloyd Walmsley from UBS. Lloyd, your line is open.

Lloyd Walmsley — UBS — Analyst

Thanks. You talked a little bit about broadening the brand marketing channels. I don’t think — correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think you’ve been in TV very broadly for the last few years, but it has been generally a portion of the ad mix at TripAdvisor. How do you guys think about as we think about maybe the next year or so? How do you think about more broadly getting back into TV advertising? And then, I guess, strategically are there any things we should contemplate over the next year? It’s only been — it’s still been a pretty short 10 years since you’ve been here, Matt, but anything — any big overhauls that you guys are thinking about strategically as we get to next year that you can help shed light on? Thanks.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Lloyd, appreciate the question. I am so excited about the strategy work. It’s been very energizing, both for me and the team that we have engaged. We’re really rallying around the opportunity. And I think it’s something that we all feel there is real upside if we get this right and do it deliberately. So I appreciate the time you’ve given me, given my tenure to really get through that process. We’re part of the way through now and we are building conviction about areas to prioritize.

The goal for the strategy work, of course, is to ensure we create sustainable value for the group as a portfolio. And that we make sure that we have a really clear and compelling proposition. We went through work like that with Viator and TheFork in the past. And so that’s why our current focus is on core TripAdvisor, and really thinking about how we serve travelers as a modern guidance platform. And I think there’s a lot we can do to be far more contemporary.

We have a lot of advantages, right? And we’re going to lean into our heritage. We’ve got a trusted brand. We’ve got a community that really values connecting with us and with each other. And of course, we’ve got a content asset. And we know we need to focus on our product to really start to utilize our unique data, and ultimately to drive higher levels of direct traffic and engagement that will create multiple opportunities for monetization. And so we’re going to balance how we think about re-imagining the core product, while continuing to invest in the growth opportunities as we see them.

We recognize that there are headwinds. There has been a number of things like shift to mobile. Obviously, our traffic mix. There are geographic differences where we think we can improve with international focus. We can take a much more thoughtful long — lifetime value focus on the consumer in our marketing. We can lean into B2B and media and really drive those businesses harder. And we could think about our content asset and the way we want it to be far more immersive as we guide travelers and then be with them that moment where they want to make their decision.

So I think there is a lot of opportunity. I wouldn’t want to tell you we’re going to overhaul something today. We think that certainly our core meta business has bounced back. It’s performing. It is showing relevance, not only for consumers, who come in not only to compare pricing but also to find that hotel. And ultimately, start to build that experience.

We also think it provides tremendous value for our partners and that’s what we’re seeing is that high intent traffic continues to be valuable and we think our partners will continue to prioritize us as part of their marketing mix. So we’re very excited about leaning into that, reinforcing it, thinking about how we can adjust to both mobile and geographic opportunities.

On the question of our marketing. I think that what we’ve learned with Viator, and to some degree TheFork, is that when we do really thoughtful marketing, whether it’d be performance marketing or thinking about other promotional marketing and the channels that help us do that, as long as we look at that in a highly disciplined way and think about what’s the purpose, who we’re trying to reach, what’s the expected result, and we watch that we’re actually delivering those results as we go, we can consider all channels. And I think that’s something we’ll consider.

We’re going to — Mike and I have talked about this. We’re going to take a very disciplined approach but I think you can expect us, as we continue to drive our product offering to be able to — to be wanting to talk about it and really get the benefit for the work that we’re planning to do.

Lloyd Walmsley — UBS — Analyst

Okay, thanks. And good luck, Ernst. And congrats, Mike, good to have you onboard.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Lloyd.

Operator

Thank you. Standby, we’re queuing the next call. The next up we have Jed Kelly from Oppenheimer and Company. Jed, your line is open.

Jed Kelly — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

Hey, great. Thanks for taking my question. Ernst, good luck. And Mike, welcome aboard. Two questions if I may. One, can you just talk about investing in Viator and how you’re thinking about some of the competition that Google’s recently done with their maps? And then my second question, any change to potentially unlocking strategic value with Viator once the public markets sort of settle down? Thank you.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I’ll take the first, and Matt will take the second. This is an exciting area and there will be multiple players trying to get a piece of the experiences business. Of course, Google is active, others are active, we have competition. It’s a large market. It’s 80% still off-line. A lot of secular growth to be had. We are playing with enormous breadth of supply that we have aggregated, which is hard to aggregate and we’ve been aggregating over time, which will be difficult for others to copy. And we’re growing quickly and which is cementing our relationships with suppliers globally. And so, we — although there is competition, there should be in a market that is this attractive, we really like our chances and continue to do well.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Thanks, Jed. It’s Matt. And I just want to add to what — your question about Google. I’ve spent a career, I think, as I said last time, in businesses that have to contend with Google, and done it in such a way that has worked out reasonably well. You have to think about what you’re going to do that’s going to be different than Google, and I think we have a lot that we can do that will be different from Google.

If we focus on our content and our trust and the security that travelers have with us when they think about the decision that they’re going to make, the way that we’re able to guide with a point of view and leverage the community. We know that we’re ranked above Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Booking when we track our brand in terms of trust.

We know that our community has value. We know that curating content and really thinking about a more longitudinal relationship to serve consumers at every step along the journey, not just at a moment when they’re ready to make a particular search, I think are all ways that we’re thinking about how to do that. I don’t want to suggest that it’s easy. I have a lot of respect for Google, and they’re an important player in the ecosystem, but we think we can differentiate.

On the question of strategic value at Viator, part of the work we’re doing is to, of course, create value for the whole of the group and that’s inclusive of maximizing value for Viator. And that’s why I shared with you that we see a lot of growth potential there and want to continue to invest and have a lifetime value focus and think about how we add value to suppliers. And it also means that we’re going to think about every option we have to drive more recognition for and value in the business. And so while the markets make it challenging to have a point of view on that today, we’re just going to lean in and focus on driving the market opportunity.

Jed Kelly — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you very much. Our next question comes from James Lee of Mizuho. James, your line is open.

James Lee — Mizuho — Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking my question. Can you guys comment about maybe future of TripPLUS? How does that fit into your strategy going forward? And also second question, maybe with the uncertain economy, how should we think about your cost structure. And how flexible can you navigate in this choppy [Phonetic] environment? Thanks.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, James. Appreciate the question. So I think I said in the last call together that we thought that the direct-to-consumer opportunity was an interesting one that we really want to dive into. And of course, it’s an area that we are deeply exploring as part of our strategy work. We think we can certainly do better with consumer-facing products and services. We haven’t yet finalized how TripAdvisor Plus would fit into that. But I think the direct-to-consumer offering needs to address very clear travel needs with tangible benefits that consumers value. And we need to communicate that clearly to drive a compelling opportunity.

We think with a brand that we have, with the trust that we have, thinking about a broader membership opportunity as a natural place to develop the relationship further. And we have to do it in a way that reinforces the entire value proposition. It can’t just be a separate proposition, just about discounting, which is kind of the starting point for TripAdvisor Plus, we need to find ways to recognize and reward loyalty, that users come. And we need to make sure that when we think about membership, it can be easy to engage.

Certainly, it could be tiered. There ought to be a way to think about membership where it’s not just about the consumer necessarily paying for something, but rather, if you’re a member, we can learn more about you and engage with you and monetize in multiple different ways. So the work that we’re doing, we are reviewing and rethinking, and as part of the strategic work I’ve outlined, we’re going to share more when we discuss our strategy in more detail.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

In terms of the cost structure, I would point out that compared to 2019, we have shifted our cost structure to less fixed cost and more variable cost, which would help in any scenario going forward. The — we’ve taken out fixed cost during the pandemic. We’ve added some back, but not a lot. And in brands like Viator, we’re currently operating with less fixed cost, even with the enhanced scale than we had in 2019, which has allowed us to make all these investments in marketing and still be profitable last quarter. So that’s been good going forward. Would we have levers there? Of course. There’s always an opportunity to see how we can organize differently and create levers. And so there’s flexibility in that too.

James Lee — Mizuho — Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you very much. Stand-by for our next question. Next up is Mario Lu from Barclays. Mario, your line is open.

Mario Lu — Barclays — Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking the questions. I have a couple on Tripadvisor core. It looks like the guide step-down in 4Q versus 2019, it seems mostly timing-related with tough comps in terms of the high TV ads in 3Q 2019. I know it’s still early but should we expect trends in this segment to then rebound in 1Q 2023, all else equal?

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

You’re right to point out that there is some comp issues compared to Q4 2019. So although — though we see a step-down in performance in 2019 from Q3 to Q4, there are one-off items in Q4 2019 that we can point to that, if you isolate for those — actually, in September to October, October, November, December, is very smooth in terms of recovery.

We had a very strong summer, particularly in our core meta business and August was even stronger than July and September. We were, on average, for the quarter in our meta business at 100% of 2019. August was substantially higher. And within that, the US did really well in August.

Took a step back in September but that was not weakness in September. That was the strength that we saw in August. September and July were quite similar. And then if you normalize for these one-off items in Q4 2019, the path versus 2019 has been very consistent; September to October to November, December.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I would just add that, for me, putting fresh eyes on the top line growth in meta. Steady recovery every quarter thus far in 2022 just suggests to me the continued relevance of that product. And of course, we recognize that the landscape has changed, but I think we can reinforce the relevance of the product in the way that we think about targeting consumers and understanding them better and creating user journeys on core TripAdvisor that meet their particular need, whether it’s for an accommodation shopping experience or they’re looking to just start planning higher in the funnel. There are opportunities to look at increasing our effectiveness geographically with mobile. I just think that there’s a way to develop an opportunity that just reinforces that. So to me that, again, goes to the point of enduring and a really good foundation.

Mario Lu — Barclays — Analyst

Great. Thank you both. Just a follow-up in terms of Trip’s meta and the positioning within the travel ecosystem. The OTAs generally are ramping up their loyalty programs, and it sounds like they’re prioritizing more direct traffic into their mobile app. I guess, how does that translate into Trip’s positioning long-term? Any puts and takes to consider here? Thanks.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So we know that there’s a continued demand for the product. And of course, our product really fits well with our strengths of being trusted and guidance and the reviews. And we continue to believe that partners find value in this offering as one of their channels, because of the high intent nature of the traffic. And in fact, that’s what we’re seeing in the dynamic. And so we’ll continue to work to identify the ways to deliver the best product and service to those partners.

And no doubt, OTAs have always wanted to focus on more direct traffic, and that’s nothing new, and they’ll continue to do that. I don’t think that means that we will lose the opportunity to continue to be a part of their mix.

Mario Lu — Barclays — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Standby for next question. Next up, we have Brian Fitzgerald with WFS.

Brian Fitzgerald — WFS — Analyst

Thanks, guys. From Wells Fargo, congrats, Ernst, and best of luck. And Mike, welcome. I wanted to follow up on Naved’s question actually. And when you look at what you’re seeing, I’m trying to parse apart maybe if you’re seeing any trends with respect to business travelers. If you’re looking for two to three nights in the middle of the week, you’re pricing elastic, it’s likely a small medium business, search for travel. Are you seeing anything like that that would indicate business travel is starting to pick up as well?

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

As a brand, we tend to skew more to the consumer use case rather than the business use case. Undoubtedly, that we have business travelers, small business travelers in our mix, but not the signal that you’re after.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I mean what we do know is that some portion of travelers are going to travel at shorter length than maybe they’d previously planned. I don’t know if that’s a direct indicator of business. But certainly, I think that as we start to think about liberating the potential of our data, we’ll start to think in a far more segmentation oriented way and really understand who’s coming to our site in ways that I think will create value for us, both across the business as it stands now and ways to identify commercial opportunities in the future.

Brian Fitzgerald — WFS — Analyst

Got it. Thanks, Ernst. And thanks, Matt.

Operator

Thank you. Stand-by for our next question. It’s coming from John Colantuoni from Jefferies. John, your line is open.

John Colantuoni — Jefferies — Analyst

Hi, this is Chris to check in for John. Thanks for taking my question. Can you just give us any more color on actual consumer behavior trends that you’re seeing throughout the third and maybe a little bit into the fourth quarter here? Are you seeing any signs of a trade-down or shorter trip duration yet? And is that kind of any different across the key geographies? Thank you.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

No, yes. I mean, we’ve shared a bit of color on the consumer. We have a lot of confidence in the consumer. We haven’t seen anything change. No signs of trading down. We — I think we’ve referenced some — Europe has been different than the US, but beyond that, the consumer has been strong.

John Colantuoni — Jefferies — Analyst

Okay. Thanks so much.

Operator

Stand by. Your next question comes from Ron Josey of Citi. Ron, your line is open

Ron Josey — Citi — Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking the question. And Ernst, congrats. And Mike, welcome. And Matt, welcome again. I wanted to ask maybe a little bit more about Viator and specifically about the resiliency/consumer appetite of experiences in dining versus travel overall, and just wondering if things — as the macro progresses, do you think we could see an acceleration in this mix shift towards Viator if you see continued macro pressures? I understood it’s still early. And then I think in the letter you talked about improving user experiences at Viator. Just can you talk to us a little bit more about how the user experience is evolving here in terms of the products and services? Thank you.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I’ll take the first part and ask Matt to add as well. We’ve seen very, very strong growth, obviously, in Viator, Viator point of sale, but also the Tripadvisor point of sale and experiences. And we believe that is our good execution, but it’s also just the secular trend in the market. I think there’s two secular trends at play. One is a general shift from people wanting to experience rather than just go for the hotel or just go for the flight, a general trend from things to experiences, which is clear signs in the economy, and that’s a benefit for us.

The other big sort of secular trend is this is one of the last verticals within travel to really move online. I said this before, about 80% is still off-line. And we are at the forefront on bringing this industry online and aggregating supply. And in some ways, the playbook is a bit like what hotels were for the early OTAs. And so we’re going after that.

And then the enablement of mobile is really an important secular trend as well. As we’ve really seen in our business, we’re now — over half our bookings on Viator are mobile. And that was maybe a third in 2019. And so you see the acceleration of mobile, and that means it has opened up new use cases. We saw in the past — in Viator, we saw the predominant use case was someone, before they went on a trip, try to plan activities. Now we increasingly see that happening on mobile and in destination. And that is allowing us for repeat rates even within the trip. So maybe someone booked before they went on the trip, and then we can cross-sell while they’re in the trip.

And so we’ve spent a lot of our user experience development over the last two years is honing the app, making the app more attractive, making the app more performant and really being more thoughtful and better at what do we present to a traveler at what point in time, how do we think about the first booking, the second booking, the third booking on the same trip or on subsequent trips. And so that’s where we’ve been focusing our development and that has led to the improvement that I was citing in terms of conversion, in terms of number of trips, in terms of really across the spectrum.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. That was a good answer. The other thing I would add is I think the work the team is doing has been really sharp not only on the consumer side, driving some of these trends that Ernst just described. But also on the supplier side, I mean, they’re really focused on growing the value of supplier offerings through the product and thinking about opportunities around engagement with suppliers and co-marketing with suppliers, and that’s delivering value both to the supplier and benefits on take rate.

We will continue to look for opportunities to accelerate. The team is always thinking about what else we can do. There’s an opportunity to leverage data across the group that would be really beneficial for Viator given the vast amount of data we have across the various brands. And they’re also — we can think differently about the relationship between Viator and Tripadvisor, and that’s something we’re really excited to think about because the two together give them a very distinct advantage in the marketplace. And so there’s a lot of opportunity here and it’s one that, again, I think we get excited about for years to come.

Operator

Stand by. Our next question comes from Deepak Mathivanan at Wolfe Research. Deepak, your line is open.

Deepak Mathivanan — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Great. Hey, guys. Thanks for taking the question. So Matt, maybe I wanted to ask another kind of big picture question related to the prior one. Your traffic is still at healthy levels and recovering and all that. But if you look at kind of consumer behavior for travel research, particularly among younger demographics, that’s increasingly shifting towards services like Instagram and TikTok partly due to the nature of content and the level of interactiveness and all that stuff. How are you thinking about depending and potentially enhancing the value prop of Tripadvisor’s core business for this changing consumer behavior over the long-term?

And then second question is for Ernst. Going back to your EBITDA margin comment on the core hotel business, you’re kind of near mid-30s this year compared to sort of high 30s in 2019. And you’ve obviously made a lot of cost savings during the pandemic. I know there are certain one-time things in 2019. But this business carries very high incremental margins. How should we think about sort of like the margin trends for this segment in 2023 and beyond? Thank you so much.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Thank you for the question, Deepak. And of course, again, coming out of the media space and doing it for so long, I’ve obviously had a chance to experience consumer shifts to lots of different kinds of platforms, going all the way back to the search and social and much more immersive content set. So when I think about Instagram and TikTok and the inspiration that they can deliver, they’re absolutely platforms that make a lot of sense. They are also platforms that we can experiment with and think about how — what’s our role in that world that balances what we do on our platform and off our platform.

But I think one of the areas that we can lean into is in our content. And when you think about combining our content with our data and what we can learn about a traveler, we have a pretty powerful asset. And we can both improve the content experience and think about different formats and really enhance the way that we deliver that immersive experience.

And also, think about the platform that brings to bear the best of our guidance to travelers because when you go into some of those other platforms, there’s a trust factor. Now some of it may be your friends and your family, but there’s a trust factor around, is that something that I can really rely on? And I think our brand stands for trust, and I think we’re uniquely positioned to do just that.

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

On the margin part, if you look at Q3 comparison to 2019, in core Tripadvisor, the EBITDA margin was very similar to what we had in Q3, but it comes together in a different way. We’ve lowered our fixed cost substantially versus Q3 2019, but we’ve seen an increase in the more variable costs compared to 2019. And the driver of that is that as we are recovering, we have seen that the higher margin revenue streams have been slower to come back.

And so, for instance, if you look at our meta business, in — as we said in Q3, we were at 2019 levels in our meta business. But for pay channels, that was above, and for free channels, that was below. And so there’s a higher — there’s a lower contribution margin than we had back in 2019.

And then if you look at some of the high-margin revenue streams, such as our media business or display, business as well as our hotel B2B business, they have been slower to recover than our meta auction, slower to recover than other revenue streams within our Tripadvisor core business like Tripadvisor Experiences and Tripadvisor Restaurant B2C.

And so there has been a shift from fixed cost to variable cost. But the margin we achieved in Q3 is — was very similar to 2019. Now then there’s a movement to Q4 that we talked about, but that’s the 2019 to ’22 in Q3 in Tripadvisor core.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

I would just add, as part of our strategy work, we are leaning into what do we want to do to differentiate ourselves and improve our operational performance in B2B and media. And that’s something that we do think some of those self-inflicted things in the past around our sales teams and driving higher levels of productivity.

But I think we can really drive more solution orientation. I think as I talked about product before, when we think about the product and services that we want to provide to deliver performance, leveraging engagement and data and productivity, as well as with media, getting into those formats where we’re experimenting already. But we primarily played in the display ad category, which we know is declining. And so as we focus on the consumer and look to drive more value for partners and advertisers, there’s a real opportunity to lead into serving clients there more effectively.

Operator

We’ll now take our final call from Vince Ciepiel at Cleveland Research Company. Please stand by. Vince, your line is open.

Vince Ciepiel — Cleveland Research Company — Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking my question. I wanted to follow up on the prior comment. I thought that was a helpful explanation of variable as a percentage of rev running higher. And just curious if you think that, over time, variable expenses as a percentage of revenue can kind of get back down to the levels they were pre-COVID? Or if the mix shift in the business towards more Viator would cause that line item to be more inflated than it was pre-COVID. That’s the first part of the question on variable.

And then second, on fixed, you guys did a really nice job taking fixed costs out of the business through the pandemic. I think it was little over $200 million. I’m curious how much of that’s being added back this year, given the 4Q guide? And how you think about your ability to leverage on that over time?

Ernst Teunissen — Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

I’ll take those both in turn. The Viator mix shift impact on the overall margin structure is clearly a factor as we are continuing to grow Viator and investing in Viator. That Viator business has a lower EBITDA margin than our Tripadvisor core, and with the mix shift, there will be a change.

In Tripadvisor core, an important driver for margin improvement going forward will be bringing our media business and our B2B business back to pre-pandemic levels and beyond. And this is what Matt was just talking about, they have been slower to recover. That is not surprising. You see in other sort of media-oriented advertising models that the growth there has been slower, especially around travel.

And so we feel we are doing — we’re performing in line with the broader media, travel media and upper funnel travel spend. But hotels, for instance are not prioritizing more upper funnel spend on media or our B2B offerings. And so it’s slower to recover, and that will change. That will change with the overall market coming back to more normal levels.

There are levers that we have internally. Matt talked about them. We continue to rebuild the sales force, the productivity in the sales force, which took a hit in the pandemic. And so there’s execution that we can affect there as well. Those were profitable — have been profitable parts of our portfolio. And so bringing those back will be very effective.

Within our meta auction, we’ve seen in the pandemic that high CPCs have led us to an ability to buy more traffic of paid, that may normalize to some extent going forward as well.

The second part, the fixed cost. Yes, we took about from 2019 to 2020, about $200 million of fixed and discretionary costs. We’ve added back about a quarter of that, mostly through inflationary pressures. You can imagine that over the last three years, there’s been some wage inflation. But we’ve been very, very prudent in adding it back, limited headcount and limited investment in additional discretionary marketing or above-the-line marketing in TheFork and Viator as we’ve described. So we’ve been prudent in adding that back.

Mike Noonan — Incoming Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I’d just say, it’s Mike here, I would say kudos to the team for being really prudent in their capital allocation and cost structure. And it’s clearly going to be something that we, as a team, are going to look at going forward, being as my prepared comments, and we think about 2023 planning being very focused on operating efficiencies and how we can drive value through those mechanisms as well. So I just want to chime in on that.

Vince Ciepiel — Cleveland Research Company — Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. At this time, I would now like to turn the call back to Matt Goldberg for closing remarks.

Matt Goldberg — Chief Executive Officer

With that, I’d like to thank you all for your time today. I look forward to seeing you the next time. Bye-bye.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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