With so many online travel agencies selling hotel content to the public, along with hotel chains own websites, it always strikes me that very few actually provide a true and enjoyable shopping experience. To me, I find this very strange. When you think about all of the travel related products you need to purchase to book your travel arrangements, the hotel part should be the most interesting, and the part the consumer spends the longest choosing (they should also find this a pleasure!). Personally, I can’t get excited about browsing the web for hundreds of different air fares, car rental deals or insurance. They are all essential parts of my holiday or business trip, but the hotel is by far the most important. It’s has to be the place that I want to spend my precious vacation time at, to sleep at, to eat at – to recover in even! It has to fit all my requirements. Because of this notion, I find it bewildering that so many OTA’s don’t deliver what I would call a shopping experience to their consumers.
Since the beginning of time (well, when OTA’s started to appear at least), a hotel shopping process has been the same. Enter a destination, stay dates and then choose from a list of hotels which you want to go to. Hardly inspiring. Enter Room 77.
That’s why I am so impressed with a relatively new company called Room 77. I urge you to pick your destination and give Room 77 a try – this is a true hotel shopping experience. You’ll see what I mean. Their focus is on search – to summarise, you don’t just pick a hotel and hope for the best, you can actually get the view from each floor of the property, and even each room number, so you can pick the perfect bedroom for you! Of course, they also incorporate the more traditional decision making tools – TripAdvisor, Google Maps etc.
Beyond these advances shopping techniques, the key to what’s different about Room 77 is their focus on bringing some transparency back into the market and building a product that best serves the needs of the traveler first (something so many OTA’s and direct chain websites forget completely). At the very start, they spent the time talking to people about their hotel shopping experience and looked at the market in front of them. Unsurprisingly, Room 77 kept encountering poor user experiences and a general disregard for doing what was in the traveler’s interest. This was to be the basis for what followed on their own product.
I was lucky enough to interview Roger Wong, Room 77’s Director of Marketing. Our conversation is shared below:
Q: How did Room 77 begin and what’s the inspiration behind the concept?
Room 77 began with a simple idea: the room you get matters and the existing hotel sites weren’t doing enough to help travelers get into a great room. From there, we built a database of exclusive room content (floor plans and room views) which now covers over one million rooms worldwide and collected intel on the best rooms at thousands of top hotels, helping travelers pick quiet rooms and secure rooms with a view. Next, we built a comprehensive hotel search and booking engine that gets prices from hundreds of sources so travelers can get a great deal and a great room on over 200,000+ hotels worldwide.
Q: How would you describe Room 77’s position in the market?
Room 77 aims to deliver on the promise of “best room, best price” and we differentiate ourselves from other hotel sites by focusing on giving travelers a faster search experience, a clear and transparent view into pricing from many different sources, unique search filters like filter by view, and an easy way to get into a great room with our complimentary Room Concierge service on eligible bookings. We also recently added the ability to search for AAA and Senior discounts on our fast, pop-up free, search experience.
Q: Is the product just available in the US? And what are the expansion plans to roll this out to the world?
Our website, Room77.com, can be accessed worldwide but our focus right now is on US customers. We expect to expand our language and currency customization options in the near future to appeal to a broader audience internationally.
Q: Most OTA’s have exactly the same way of shopping for a hotel, but Room 77 clearly takes this to another level. What was the original reaction to this when you launched and how has this changed?
At launch, people really connected with our mission to help them avoid getting a bad hotel room. We kept hearing the same horror stories from travelers who found themselves in hotel rooms with a view of a dirty alley or being kept awake all night by the ice machine situated outside their door. We haven’t changed our mission to deliver travelers into great rooms, we’ve just added a really fast and clean hotel shopping experience on top of it. Today, instead of simply finding information on the best rooms, we also get travelers the best deals and deliver them into a great room with our Room Concierge service.
Q: Do you see other hotel websites (direct or OTA’s) trying to adopt similar functionality?
We work with many OTAs and hotel chains to deliver on our promise of providing price transparency and many of them have expressed interest in providing similar levels of insight down to the room level so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more room data integrated on hotel and OTA sites in the future.
Q: How do Room 77 see search? Other OTA’s see it as a commodity, a simple city search, select a brand and book, with little or no shopping or guest interaction
We see search as the core of our competitive advantage. Being a metasearch engine means that we’re going out into marketplace and finding as many prices, options, and choices as we possibly can for consumers so they feel confident that they are getting a great deal and the best selection of hotels. Our technology team has built a fast search engine that also is comprehensive, getting rates that are normally missed by other search engines such as AAA or senior rates that millions of travelers qualify for but never take advantage of.
Q: What’s next for Room 77?
We’re always working on new features and product enhancements to help make the hotel shopping process more pain-free. We recently introduced an update to our app for iPhone so travelers can get a great deal on-the-go anywhere they may be. We’ve got some other exciting product features that we can’t quite share yet but keep an eye on us and let us know how we can build a better hotel search experience.
My thanks to Roger for taking the time in talking to me about Room 77 – I’m sure you’ll agree that his company are really leading the way in re-defining hotel search and it will certainly be interesting seeing how the rest of the worlds responds to their search concept in the future. One final point – check out the free Room 77 mobile app – available for iPhone and Android. Why do I mention this? Because the world of hotel mobile booking apps are the same as online – presenting un-inventive search. But that’s for another post, another time…