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What I'll Be Watching When TripAdvisor Reports Earnings

TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP) will report its third-quarter earnings on Nov. 6. After a disappointing second quarter that included lower full-year guidance, investors will be hoping for a better performance from the online travel company's core hotel business.

While the company hasn't offered specific guidance for Q3, analysts are, on average, expecting revenue of $453.1 million, which would represent 7.6% growth over last year. Examining each of TripAdvisor's business segments in more detail can provide a better sense of what's baked into those estimates, so let's review some key items to see if the online travel company can reignite its growth engines.

Image source: Getty Images

Hotel revenue -- is the worst over?

TripAdvisor's instant booking platform has taken a huge toll on the company's hotel revenue growth. Rolled out to all of TripAdvisor's markets worldwide over the past few years, this feature encouraged users to book hotel stays on TripAdvisor's site or app instead of booking through one of the company's featured hotel sites. When users didn't embrace this new model, TripAdvisor's revenue growth stalled out, falling by 6% in 2016.

Hotel segment revenue finally returned to positive growth earlier this year, increasing 4% in Q1 and 3% in Q2. While that's a step in the right direction, it's still a far cry from the 20%-plus growth this segment was posting a few years ago, before instant booking. In addition, the company is still more or less reliant on the hotel segment, which accounted for 77% of TripAdvisor's total revenue in the most recent quarter.

What to watch for: Hotel segment revenue is driven primarily by click-based and transaction revenue, which makes up around two-thirds of the total. And based on the company's full-year guidance for click-based and transaction revenue growth in the mid-single digits, I'm not expecting a whole lot of improvement here. Any acceleration beyond the 3% growth in hotel segment revenue we saw last quarter would be a pleasant surprise.

The non-hotel segment needs to keep shining

The remaining 23% of TripAdvisor's revenue comes from its non-hotel segment -- which includes attractions, restaurants, and vacation rentals. And the good news for investors is that this segment is expected to continue to grow much more quickly than its counterpart.

After growing by 27% in 2016, non-hotel revenue increased 18% in Q1 and 31% in Q2. For the full year, TripAdvisor is expecting growth of around 27% and, importantly, the segment is expected to become profitable on an adjusted EBITDA basis for the full year 2017, having contributed $17 million in adjusted EBITDA in Q2 -- around 17% of TripAdvisor's total.

Management continues to invest heavily in this side of the business. The company recently launched a new platform for travel agents worldwide, allowing them to book more than 70,000 tours and attractions for their clients. With agents earning an 8% commission, and a low-price guarantee, there's plenty of incentive for travel agencies to use TripAdvisor's platform rather than go through middlemen. This additional audience should provide another shot in the arm for TripAdvisor's fastest-growing segment.

What to watch for: With the hotel segment still underperforming, solid results in the non-hotel segment have helped compensate, and TripAdvisor needs that to continue if it's going to achieve its yearly total revenue growth target of "slightly better" than the mid-single digits.

Can the new TV campaign lift monetization rates?

TripAdvisor's key asset has always been its user base, which numbered 414 million average monthly unique visitors in the second quarter. But with more of this traffic taking place on mobile devices each quarter, TripAdvisor is struggling to convert that traffic to sales. Mobile devices continue to monetize at a much lower rate than desktop devices do.

To increase its monetization rates and jump-start its overall revenue growth, TripAdvisor launched a $70 million ad campaign earlier this year. The campaign's goal is to get more of the people using TripAdvisor for travel research to book their travel with the company, too.

What to watch for: CEO Steve Kaufer had indicated that based on the campaign's money-saving message, he was expecting some relatively quick impacts in terms of revenue and click-through rates. With the campaign having launched back in June, expect management to share some initial results.

TRIP data by YCharts

TripAdvisor's share price has retreated over the past month, at least partially on concerns that a competitive advertising push from Priceline Group could help it steal market share. Whether TripAdvisor's own advertising can help bring back the kind of growth investors are looking for -- from a company that continues to trade at a relatively high P/E ratio of 57 -- remains to be seen.

We'll get more insight when the earnings report is released next week.

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Andy Gould owns shares of Priceline Group and TripAdvisor. Andy Gould has the following options: Short Dec. 2017 $50 calls on TripAdvisor. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Priceline Group and TripAdvisor. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.