6 years ago

Can a travel startup change the way hotels think about rates and distribution?

NB: This is a guest article by Tom Botts, managing partner at Hudson Crossing.

Room77, often miss-thought of as a content play for its cool room images, has added a new feature cementing its place as the most innovative hotel search player out there.

Make no mistake, Room77 is a meta but it also allows users to book rates directly at the site in an Amazon-style hybrid kind of way – buy direct or via the marketplace.

But aside from actually facilitating bookings, what makes Room77 unique is that it show retail rates, merchant rates, AAA (American Automobile Association) and senior rates side-by-side in the primary search – no one else does this!

Priceline pioneered the co-mingling of merchant and “pay when you stay” rates (and still maintains this competitive advantage) when it began showing Booking.com-sourced rates within search results – but Room77 is taking it to a whole new level.

In this example, Room77 has turned up rates that beat Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity by substantial margins at such storied New York hotels as the Marriott Marquis and the Omni Berkshire Place by pulling in AAA and senior rates.

Most hotel chains hide these rates by making consumers ask for them, whilst the OTAs simply don’t have them at all.

Anyone of age can book a senior rate and with over 50 million members, there are probably a lot of AAA members who can benefit from these rates who may not have known about them.

Joining AAA to benefit from these rates could pay for itself in just one stay (obviously, joining the ranks of senior citizens is not so easily accomplished – and vanity may interfere!)

And did I mention that AAA and senior rates are not pre-paid and earn loyalty points? Room77 also highlights this important differentiation versus the OTAs.

The most disruptive thing about all this is the retail rates – finally, someone is showing regular retail rates as well, offering consumers yet another source of rates usually only found with traditional travel agents. And yes, there are deals to be found here too – and all without a pre-pay and with loyalty points.

Don’t confuse Room77’s own booking capabilities with those of Kayak. Kayak simply white labels Travelocity rates and sells them direct. Room77 is pulling actual retail rates from the Global Distribution Systems.

As a quick aside, a shout out to Room77 and real transparency for admitting when they don’t have the best rate (shown in the bottom example at the Carlton which is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.)

Room77 not only now has by far the largest number of price comparisons across online multiple booking channels, but also now has rates not often found anywhere else with ease. And good rates at that.

The Marriott example above clearly shows why meta, when done right, is so important in the hotel industry. In spite of best rate guarantees, single image inventory promises and other marketing positioning, large differences do exist if you know where to look.

Clearly, Room77 knows where to look.

RoomKey, Google Hotel Finder, Kayak and the traditional OTAs (there is a funny concept – traditional OTAs) still have a long way to go – and some big decisions ahead.

NB: This is a guest article by Tom Botts, managing partner at Hudson Crossing.

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A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.



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  2. Michael

    I have to say I really like the new changes and incorporation of AAA and seniors rates. The site is fast and the UI is clean and friendly.
    My only feedback after a quick test is that when I clicked through to book on Expedia the dates didn’t carry through and needed to be re-entered. A small glitch but an extra step that the user would need to do again.

  3. Henry Harteveldt

    I’m not sure if this qualifies as “the most innovative” hotel search out there, but I agree that Room77 is onto something by providing a comprehensive assortment of resources, rates and content.

    To Scott’s point above, when I conducted a search, I can’t recall seeing a page returned so quickly — truly “lightning fast.” I like how Room77 has incorporated its floor map and view content into property displays, as well as user reviews from TripAdvisor. I would like to see Room77 offer more creative, non-traditional, goal-focused search options, but I recognize that doing so takes time and resources.

    I find Room77 to be tangibly better than RoomKey (hotel execs, you reading this???).

    • Roger Wong

      Thanks for the feedback Henry. I definitely agree that there’s a lot more that can be done in terms of goal-focused search innovation and we are working on some of those ideas in the coming months. As a baseline for a hotel search engine, we know we need to have competitive pricing and lightning fast results and we feel good about those now so we can move on to innovating on top of this foundation.

  4. Scott Hintz

    Im really liking the new Room77 search results UI. It takes a lot to impress me but this one hits the mark. It’s fast, clean, and full of useful info. Just getting basic search results right, to me, is far more valuable as a user than the room recommendations. And it’s enough to get me to start my hotel searches at R77 going forward. Nice job, team.

  5. Paul Rajkumar

    The Question posted :: Can a travel startup change the way hotels think about rates and distribution?
    My Opinion :: Yes, it can certainly do it.

    Today’s travel industry is nothing but a “Mind Game”, how I lead you to grab my prediction. As long as one understand’s this, anyone can effect that change.

    Myself having been a Hotel Management Graduate, then worked for several Hotel Groups as a General Manager for 30+ yrs and now into an Online Portal – The concept of Room77 is Remarkable !!

  6. Evan

    Did Room77 pivot away from room-level data to a straight meta/OTA with this pricing display and marketplace dynamic?
    Or is this just a side-show to the core?

    I rarely see start-ups “cementing its place as the most innovative hotel search player out there” for doing something unrelated to the core….unless of course it’s the new focus.

    • Alex Kremer

      Evan brings up a good point — is room data now secondary at Room 77? The new design seems to have de-emphasized this (very cool) data a bit.

      • Kevin Fliess

        Evan, Alex — the goal of Room 77 has always been — and remains — to deliver a better hotel search experience. Period. In order to that we’ve invested heavily in transparency — from core price and availability search at the top of the funnel, right down to the room. We will continue to work hard to both expand our footprint of searchable hotels as well as our marketplace of pricing partners — and that database of room information…. it continues to grow as well with well over 800,000 searchable rooms in our index (up from ~400,000 at launch in February 2011).

        At the end of the day, consumers deserve total clarity into what they are buying: From the various prices charged across the hotel distribution landscape, down to the rooms they will get when they check-in.

    • Roger Wong


      To follow up on Kevin’s point, each day we are adding more blueprints, room views, insider tips and cities so we can provide consumers with all the information they need for booking a hotel in one spot. We will continue to push the envelope in terms of search innovation, and we are committed to doing what’s best for the consumer, whether its providing a floor plan or always featuring the lowest price found even when it’s not on Room 77.

      Our unique Room Concierge service taps directly into our room content to make sure travelers get a room that best fits their needs, and we have had a fantastic response to the service. But don’t take our word for it, here’s what a few of our recent customers said about their Room Concierge experience:

      The Peabody Orlando
      Concierge useful: Yes
      Got preferred room: Yes
      Will recommend: Heck Yeah!
      General feedback: They almost read my mind!!!!

      Residence Inn Marriott Langhorne
      Satisfaction: Completely satisfied
      Concierge useful: Yes
      Got preferred room: Yes
      Will recommend: Heck Yeah!

  7. Martin - HotelPress

    hmm… directrooms.com is already displaying it’s own inventory alongside metasearch.

    i feel that displaying discounted rates that not everyone qualifies for is just begging for issues (rate parity, non-qualified bookers)

    a disclosure about the affiliation of Hudson Crossing with AAA would have been nice.

    • Tom Botts

      Martin, to be clear, there is no affiliation between Hudson Crossing and AAA. Past client, yes, but no involvement in this piece.

    • Tom Botts

      Further, directrooms.com is not displaying RETAIL inventory. They are showing inventory (not sure if their own or a wholesale rate from GTA etc) as their own, but it isnt retail and it requires pre-pay. I would argue this is no different from Kayak showing their white labeled Travelocity inventory alongside their metasearch inventory – except that at least directrooms.com has many sources of inventory….

      • Martin - HotelPress

        true, directrooms might work with 3rd party inventory, though i don’t know if they still hold inventory in their core destinations. prior to their change in direction, they did.

        to me, it just looks not as consequent as they wanted to start out. room77 had a great though very difficult to execute idea and i don’t feel that this new development will bring any great improvement to their business – maybe over time as a userbase is getting the right age.

        with their star-strudded team, i was and am just expecting a bit more.


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