Hotel giants come together to launch Room Key search site
Massive development in the hotel sector with six of the biggest hotel chains on the planet uniting to launch Room Key, a new online hotel search platform.
Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, InterContinental Hotels, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotel Group have combined to establish the joint venture under the leadership of CEO John Davis, founder of the Pegasus hotel distribution and technology service.
The site is essentially a metasearch platform for properties, prices and availability across all six companies, including their sub-brands and affiliates.
Users can browse rates across every property, read independent reviews, compare prices and share information around their various social networks.
The site is global and has enlisted ex-Hostess Brands SVP of marketing Stephany Verstraete as its chief marketing officer and J Kurt Zimmer (a former TIAA-CREF and Dupont IT executive) as chief technology officer.
Ahead of the launch, RoomKey bought accommodation site Hotelicopter to run the search technology behind the scenes as well as continue to provide its affiliate platform for destination marketing organisations, under a division known as Room Key Solutions.
The formation of the Room Key venture comes as the hotel sector continues to battle with various issues around distribution and pricing on the web, including the continued roll-out of Google’s Hotel Finder service (which many of the above brands participate in).
“Finding the right hotel is complex and, unlike booking a flight or reserving a car, it is a personal decision process – one which no one understands better than hoteliers.
“We believe Roomkey will provide consumers with an innovative resource that will give them unprecedented confidence in their booking decisions by fulfilling their hotel search needs, with comprehensive and trusted content, and over time, through additional features such as the ability to connect and share their plans with family and friends – all provided through a simple and flexible site experience.”
Collaborative efforts on the web by major hotel chains, similar to those that saw the formation of Orbitz and Opodo by the airlines, are not exactly new.
In April 2001, European trio Hilton, Accor and the Forte Group joined forces to launch AndBook, a search and booking service featuring properties from all three brands as well as accommodation on the Pegasus platform.
AndBook’s creation had to be validated by the European Union, due to competition concerns, but it was expected to become a significant player in hotel search.
It eventually failed to gain any significant traction as it suffered, similar to many travel brands at the time, from the downturn in tourism in the wake of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.
The Forte Group was also broken up shortly after AndBook’s launch.
In the US, Travelweb was a web distributor of merchant hotel rooms in the early-2000s, formed by Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, and Starwood.
Travelweb’s other part-owner Priceline took over the remaining 71% shares in the business in 2004 for $21 million, eventually folding the system into the main Priceline brand.
Room Key, however, arrives in a very different era in hotel distribution and marketing, with more channels than ever before and the emergence of big and potentially very influential players, such as Google.
The normally-fierce rivals are crawling over themselves to talk up Room Key, with it being described as “unique” (Chuck Sullivan, Hilton Worldwide), “well positioned” (John Wallis, Hyatt), an “industry first” (Steve Sickel, IHG), having “immediate scale” (Shafiq Khan, Marriott) and promising “clear benefits to the industry and consumers” (Flo Lugli, Wyndham).
NB: Further details here in this interview with Davis.
Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.