TripAdvisor’s announcement that it intends to become the ‘Facebook of travel’ is being tipped as an opportunity for agents and brands to establish themselves as influencers on the world’s most-used travel site.

The reviews giant, which has 456 million global users, this week revealed details of the next evolution of its website, which will allow users to follow travel brands and influencers they trust. It will fully launch later this year.

The new site is being tested with 500 travel ‘partners’, who will be able to add their expertise to the 661 million traveller reviews.

Bruce Martin, managing director of travel social media consultancy Ginger Juice, said TripAdvisor’s move created an opportunity for small, independent agencies.

“If a travel agent gets [involved], they can create a huge reach,” he said. “It can be a valuable platform speaking direct to consumers.”

Martin said agents could capitalise on the new TripAdvisor site by being among the first to apply to be a verified expert. He said agents could boost their business by commiting “just a couple of hours a week” to the site.

“In five years’ time you could be the number one expert [on TripAdvisor] for Florida holidays.”

But Martin warned TripAdvisor’s shift from customer-only reviews could call into question the impartiality of assessments.

Si Morris-Green, marketing director at The Travel Network Group, said: “We embrace any initiative that helps members raise their profile, and I really like the concept and that they are reaching out to independent travel sellers.

“But it depends on how they execute it,” he added, noting that TripAdvisor has its own booking engine. “There’s a danger that agents could be giving their advice away for free and customers will take it and book online.”

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