13. Stephen Kaufer

CEO of TripAdviser

Stephen Kaufer     Photo: Joe Ciardiello

Terrifies Hotel owners

Once upon a time, guidebook writers decided with a keyboard stroke which hotels, lodges, restaurants, and destinations thrived or died. Now we all do. That’s largely thanks to Stephen Kaufer, 49, a Harvard computer-science major and software developer who recognized the power of the crowd. In 2000, he brought Amazon­.com’s customer-review model to the travel ­industry with Trip­Advisor. Since then, the company has added ratings for airlines and vacation rentals, mobile apps, and a flight meta-search ­engine. The design is archaic, but that doesn’t stop 50 million people in 30 countries from visiting Trip­Advisor sites every month, making it the world’s largest online travel platform. (Meanwhile, sales of travel guidebooks plummet by about 10 percent each year.) The influence is undeniable: a cottage industry of reputation-management firms has emerged to shape hotel reviews.

By the Numbers 25: new reviews posted on TripAdvisor every minute

Second Opinion “It changed everything,” says Christopher Elliott, the reader advocate for National Geographic Traveler and cofounder of the Consumer Travel Alliance. “It’s a problematic thing to have so much power. Now hotels design their entire social-media strategy based on TripAdvisor.”

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