room 2705
1148 days ago
 

Room77 has a view to shake up online hotel shopping

Room77 hopes to build the world’s largest global database of hotel rooms — yes, the rooms themselves — and in the process change the way consumers shop for hotel stays.

These are lofty goals for Room77, which launched a website in beta and an iPhone app Feb. 24, and uses patent-pending technology to plot each hotel room’s latitude, longitude and altitude, and with an assist from Google Earth creates a virtual view outside from each hotel room in its database.

The company currently has 425,000 rooms at 2,500 properties, 3-star and above, in its database, covering 15 U.S. destinations plus London.

Many hotel floor plans in the U.S., at least, are public records, but one way Room77 plans to build its rooms’ database is through partnerships with hotels and crowd-sourcing.

The Room77 iPhone app enables users to take photos of exit floor plans, which can be found on the back of most hotel room doors, and to forward them to Room77 to add to its roster.

“Hotels will price each room type identically, but it’s a total crapshoot what you end up with,” says Kevin Fliess, general manager and vice president of product at Room77, explaining the company’s mission.

Room77 enables users to decide whether they want their hotel room on a high or low floor, near an elevator, with a connecting room or whether the view is important or not.

The website then ranks each hotel room on the percentage basis of whether it is a strong or weak match for the user’s criteria.

So take a look at the following two Room77 displays of Rooms 2705 and Room 3914, both ocean view double rooms and presumably priced identically at the Hyatt Regency Wakiki Beach Resort and Spa.

Room77′s depiction of Room 2705 shows an obstructed view. Not much ocean there.

room 2705

But, the view from another ocean view double, Room 3914, shows that you can see some beach.

room 3914

If you’ve just spent the past few months planning your Hawaii vacation, the difference may be crucial.

Of course, if you want to take no chances and plunk down a few extra bucks, there’s always Room 3907, a deluxe ocean view double.

hyatt regency 3907

“At the end of the day, there is scary great stock photography from Expedia,” says Brad Gerstner, founder and chairman of Room77 and an Orbitz Worldwide board member. “The lobby of the hotel is fine, but I don’t stay in the lobby of the hotel.”

Room77 is not just about the view from the rooms’ windows.

It will tell you that the elevator is 61 feet from the room, whether there is a connecting room and that your room has 450 square feet, for instance.

For a business traveler looking to conduct some meetings in the room or in combination with an adjoining room, these may be important factors to consider.

Room77 sees itself as a room search site, doesn’t process bookings itself, and is agnostic about where the consumer books the room.

For now, Room77 connects you to the hotel website or to Orbitz for bookings — for traditional hotel bookings. You can’t yet use the site to book a particular room.

And there currently is a Request a Room link and an informational pop-up, which provides tips for contacting a hotel’s front desk and lobbying for a particular room.

Room77 says it is working with several hotel chains and individual properties to validate and expand its data, and plans on soon displaying Hotel Verified badges on hotel pages that have been vetted by the properties.

There certainly will be varied reactions from hotel chains and individual properties about Room77 as some will see a merchandising opportunity and others may view the increased transparency into hotel rooms as an operational nightmare.

One major chain – Starwood — is in discussions with Room77 about ways to work together.

“We support consumer empowerment and believe that the more information guests have access to when comparing hotel options, the more our brands and hotels stand out as great destinations,” says Matt Avril, hotel group president for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “We look forward to working with the Room 77 team as they launch their new service.”

In the beginning, Gerstner says, Room77 hopes to build an audience and use an advertising model as Room77 sends consumers to advertisers’ websites for bookings.

But, he also believes that Room77 can become a merchandising platform for hotels where, similar to airlines selling premium seats, hotels would be able to guarantee at the time of booking room 343 for an extra $25.

There also could a business-to-business revenue model, Gerstner argues, with hotels and travel agencies seeking access to a Room77 API to enable their employees to better assist customers.

Room77 is currently focusing on expanding its database and features.

In addition to enabling users to help build the Room77 rooms’ database, the iPhone app will allow guests to review individual rooms and share their critiques. There is no monetization of the free app at this juncture.

And, there currently is no destination search on the site; you can search by hotel name and then room number.

Destination search is on the way, officials say.

Room77 has backing from a laundry list of travel industry veterans and venture capital companies, including  Expedia and Zillow founder Rich Barton; Erik Blachford, ex-president and CEO of IAC Travel; MTV founder Bob Pittman; former Farecast CEO Hugh Crean; Par Capital Management [ITA Software, Farecast and Orbitz); and Sutter Hill Ventures (Farecast); and Felicis Ventures.

Gerstner is a travel industry investor and former co-CEO of National Leisure Group.

Part of the technology to create the room views is a byproduct of Room77′s acquisition of OpTrip and the hiring some of the developer team.

Fliess, formerly head of TravelMuse, sees Room77′s core target customers as “power users,” which might include road warriors and some leisure travelers.

And, the approach is skewed toward the upscale. Room77 will be focusing on 3-star properties and higher.

Says Gerstner: “We’re not doing this for a Super 8 in Topeka.”

 
 
Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.

 

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  1. Room 77 launches metasearch and emailing room requests to hotels | Askcharly.net

    [...] new Room Concierge service is part of a reboot of sorts for Room 77, which launched about nine months ago with grand visions of running betas and convincing hotels to start [...]

     
  2. Bill

    This looks familiar. In fact, it’s a lot like http://roomswithgreatviews.com/ except that Rooms With Great Views has over 100 countries listed. Hmmm.

     
  3. Sean O'

    I think the tag on this post needs to be changed to room-77

     
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  8. David Whitley

    This, of course, assumes that people pick a hotel room because of the view. Unless it looks out over something amazing (and if i’m paying a premium, I want Sydney Harbour, the Pyramids or St Paul’s Cathedral on fire with dancing monkeys), it doesn’t enter the equation.

     
    • Roger W

      @David There are many factors we take into account beyond the view including distance from elevator, floor, and whether it’s a connecting room or not. In our iPhone app, we are collecting other attributes that are not easily determined systematically such as room noise level (elevator distance is one factor only), cleanliness, and wifi strength (we’re adding this week). In the future, you will be able to rank according to those attributes as well.

       
    • Kevin Fliess

      Appreciate the comment, David. There are, of course, other dimensions that enter into picking a room than view. Room 77 also takes into consideration distance from elevator, floor, and whether the room is connecting or now. We’re evaluating other dimensions that travelers care about — for business and leisure.

       
  9. Kevin Fliess

    Appreciate all the comments. We’re psyched to build upon the platform we launched today. Please send me your thoughts as we evolved the solution – kevin(at)room77.com.

     
  10. Whoa! Finally, we will get to pick our rooms and views - FlyerTalk Forums

    [...] Linky: http://www.room77.com/ Here is a article from Tnooz that explains the website. http://www.tnooz.com/2011/02/24/news…otel-shopping/ There is a iPhone app for users to take photos of exit floor plans. No droid app yet, it [...]

     
  11. Jim Kovarik

    I actually think the premium model (i.e., unbundling) is brilliant. It certainly generated billions in revenue for the airlines out of thin air. No idea if it will transfer to lodging, but the upside could be enormous if it works.

     
  12. Daniele Beccari

    Kudos to Kevin and team for bringing it all together. It’s really not as easy as it seems.

    May I ask for a big favour.

    Please record the sound level from the room. That’s a big nightmare for business travelers in cities where you might get the nice main street view but can’t sleep at night due to thin windows and loud post-drinking crowds outside.

     
    • Kevin Fliess

      Thanks, Daniele. On the iPhone app, you can rate rooms by various dimensions including “quietness.” And we’ll use those user ratings to adjust how we rank rank rooms on the front end.

       
  13. Stuart

    Good luck to them. I would venture though, that just because the technology exists to allow something to be done doesn’t mean it should actually be done – or that it would be useful.

     
  14. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Pete: To your point about site design and usability, clearly Room77 believes there is a lot of work to be done. The booking path obviously will evolve, and Gerstner told me he thought the crowd-sourcing aspects of the iPhone app currently are “minimally acceptable.”

    I could see how this would work with hotel loyalty program, with chains offering their best members guaranteed access to the best rooms.

    Yes, internationally there will be big challenges getting to scale given the fragmentation of the hotel industry.

     
  15. Pete Meyers

    Man oh man, nice list of board of advisors / investors.

    I think you’re right, Dennis, that this is a big bet on disrupting the way consumers purchase hotel rooms and, if they’re able to do so successfully, could be quite a beast. There’s probably a nice syndication market they can tap into, too, as they achieve greater scale.

    I see how it could “work” with upmarket national chains, which probably represent a hefty % of the total booking universe, but I imagine it’ll be tough to crack into international markets that are less chain-oriented and more fragmented.

    Clearly they have a load of technology under the hood, but I don’t understand why they wouldn’t have focused a bit more on site design and usability before such a big launch.

     
  16. Martin - TravelDaily.de

    really… that’s it?

    a streetview mashup mixed with a few properties, basically a mash of expedia meets tripkick?

    i hope they have more up the sleeves…

    especially with the upmarket hotels in their focus, this just begs for issues: frequent guest stays in a room that someone else books back to back, frequent guest decides to extend – disappointed guest either way… for planes this might work as a guest can’t extend, hotels are a totally different matter.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @martin – what about yield management systems within the hotels themselves?

      At the moment they are mostly set to rate specific than room specific. Tricky to do yield mgmt on rates if all the customers are asking for specific rooms.

      I’d like to hear how hotels will be persuaded to make the switch. Or can run both.

       
      • Martin - TravelDaily.de

        i think hotels are already actively yielding their more popular rooms by creating pseudo room categories like city-view room or the likes.

        promoting pecific rooms as such is a nice idea to generate additional revenue but with a buildings infrastructure, the room next to the one with the best view might still have a nice view but has some hefty downsides like being located next to the elevators, a service room or the main water pipe.

        i don’t know, i had been looking at room77 and their board of advisors and investors and probably had too high an expectation as all new efforts in presenting hotel inventory might be the ground fort the next new idea in hotel distribution.

         
        • hotelmarketing@facebook.com

          now had a look at the iphone app and think that it is much better executed than the site itself.
          let’s see how it will perform and if their 12 months outlook of 1000000 room data sets will materialize

           
 
 

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