Oyster quadruples hotel coverage and has very big plans

With some $20 million in funding, professional-review website Oyster.com has its journalist “special investigators” on the move.

The site has professional reviews, depicting the “pros” and “cons” of some 3,500 hotels in 188 countries, says co-founder and CEO Elie Seidman.

That’s a quantum leap from the approximately 800 properties in 14 markets covered a year ago, Seidman says.

Founded in 2008, Oyster has some very big plans.

Buoyed by its funding infusion from Scripps Networks and others, Oyster plans to have 10,000 hotels reviewed by the end of 2013 as it deepens its coverage, adding central Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Seidman says.

Speaking on a panel about website monetization at the Society of American Travel Writers Editors Council Meeting in Brooklyn, New York, May 5, Seidman said his business doesn’t work from a financial standpoint at its current scale.

Founded in 2008, Seidman says these are “early days for us on the monetization side…”

The site had experimented with featuring its own hotel booking engine, and dropped the idea, and now transfers consumers to online travel agency and hotel websites to complete their bookings.

Seidman says it is more efficient to send travelers to Booking.com and Venere for bookings than to operate its own booking engine.

The Oyster co-founder concedes that the company will never get to the scale of a user-generated content site such as TripAdvisor, but Seidman hopes in a few years to get to 60 million to 70 million unique visitors.

“In a six- to seven-year period, I think we’ll achieve all the goals,” Seidman says. “I think it will be ultimately a very big business.”

Oyster, which features its hotel fakeout photos and has targeted Orbitz for uber-marketing, has attracted high-profile media attention for its efforts to inject some realism into hotel reviews.

Here’s a Nightline TV broadcast featuring an Oyster journalist scoping out a hotel, even taking photos of pillows, sheets, toilets and sinks:

So once Oyster achieves some scale, how is it going to keep all of its professional hotel reviews up to date?

“No real magic, but lots of shoe leather,” Seidman answers.

Oyster has 75 journalists revisiting properties, an editorial team in New York City keeps tabs on hotel changes and Oyster readers provide feedback about renovations, Seidman says.

“Hotels are interested in keeping their Oyster reviews up to date and contact us about their updates,” Seidman says. “We encourage hotels to reach out to us as they update their properties.”

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Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  1. eric

    It is a great site indeed but I d be curious to understand how can they make money in the long run? … they say they target 60 million to 70 million unique visitors? how can they aim for such numbers ? Hotel SEO is all taken by the large brands such as Booking & TripAdvisor – not to mention the upcoming Google Hotelfinder etc. SEM cannot be profitable if they live on OTA’s affiliate commission .. So I would question their numbers…

  2. Steve

    Isn’t this what guidebooks used to do?

  3. Laurence Brothers

    I’m happy they’re finding success. Oyster reviews are vastly superior to most others, and their honest photography really makes them stand out. The increase in coverage really expands their utility.


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