You've undoubtedly seen a lot of buzz around Room 77 recently, but most of it has been consumer focused and to understand what hotels need to know about this startup, I talked with founder Brad Gerstner and general manager Kevin Fliess.Brad, why did you start Room 77?
It's simple: we think travelers should have more control and transparency around their hotel rooms – before they arrive. As a traveler, I have been frustrated for years by the fact that room data is not available and so I started keeping a list of my favorite hotel rooms on my Blackberry. After a couple of years, my friends started asking me for "the list" and I realized that there was an opportunity to do this at scale.
It comes down to this: A little information can go a long way to empowering consumers and that's why we created Room 77. This is the world's first hotel room database and search engine, and it provides travelers with the information they need to find the best room for them – including details on which rooms to request and the ones to avoid.Kevin, Room 77 has received a lot of press coverage, but most of the stories were about the benefit to consumers. What do hotel managers need to know about your site?
It's important to keep in mind that any benefits for hotel guests can quickly translate into benefits for hotels. We're already working with chains and individual properties around the world to verify their room data. Getting a guest into a desired room can increase satisfaction, loyalty, and potentially revenue. In fact, we're already in discussions with a number of properties about piloting revenue-generating programs and technology.
To become a "verified hotel" on Room 77, the hotel manager simply needs to review their content to ensure accuracy. Once a hotel is verified, Room 77 will link directly to that property's booking page. Our partner relations team works with the hotel to complete this process and the whole process usually takes less than an hour.
Hotels have the opportunity to augment their content and we encourage them to do so. As an example, the Grand Hyatt Seattle and the Hyatt at Olive 8 have not only verified their room data, they also had staff take interior photos of every single room. These images are accessible through the Look Inside feature. Look Inside provides a unique opportunity for hotels: it allows properties to highlight distinctive characteristics of each room in every hotel category, which creates an entirely new connection between the guest and property before they ever step foot in the lobby.
By partnering with Room 77 to verify data, hotels can realize more leads directly to their website for direct reservation inquiries. In the months ahead, we'll be adding more features that will help hotels attract more direct customers and introduce revenue-generating services.At PhoCusWright@ITB 2011, the question was raised whether Room77 will lead to hotels eventually selling rooms by their individual numbers. Do you think there is a trend in this direction?
There is definitely a lot of interest in innovation within particular hotel chains and we expect to see more development and innovation in the next couple years. The hotel room provides unique ancillary revenue opportunities for hotels. There are ways that hotels can monetize premium rooms and consumer research we've commissioned shows a large portion of travelers would be willing to pay a small fee to secure a room of their choice. We are piloting several approaches to guaranteeing specific room numbers for guests. Hotels can provide this service for a fee or as a benefit to members of their loyalty program.What are your plans for working with hotel chains and individual properties?
We want to work with every chain and property for 3-star and above hotels worldwide. We already have data on more than 460,000 hotel rooms in 18 destinations, and our goal is to expand our database to include 1 million rooms by the end of the year.
We've been speaking with major chains and boutique properties around the globe, and, since launching the public beta last month, we've been contacted by more than 150 hotel representatives about working more closely with us. We have a lot to offer chains and individual properties, including brand building and increasing loyalty, and we anticipate that our database will continue to grow through these increased partnerships, the efforts of our in-house team and travelers.How do you plan to evolve Room 77 as a service in the future?
As a startup, we see a number of ways to innovate the hotel room search and selection process. First and foremost, we are working hard on delivering more destinations on every continent. We're excited that hotels are starting see the benefit and value of working with us to do so. We invite any hotel that wants more information to reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to new features planned for later this year, like destination-based search, we are looking into ways to partner with hotels to guarantee premium room requests, much the same way consumers pay incremental fees for premium airline seats. We anticipate this revenue will be shared with the participating hotel partner.
Thanks very much, Brad and Kevin! www.hotelmarketingstrategies.com/room-77-hotels About the author
This blog is written by Josiah Mackenzie, who enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry.