A couple of weeks ago we announced that hotels could load their inventory onto the new hotel booking portal Treovi. Yesterday the Swiss startup announced having opened their beta doors to guests, inviting the world to not only search desired destination hotels, but to just plain “book!” This “free for all” niche of travel booking portals is actually growing pretty fast, but Treovi claimes their model is the only truly free one.
Great Caesar’s Beta
Having only launched in private beta this Summer, Michal Wrobel’s (Co-Founder) team has so far welcomed over 1500 hotels into the Treovi fold, and most of those within one month. While these numbers will not be surprising for some, after all hotels owners are looking for better and cheaper visibility channels always, it is a significant denominator when one looks at beta startups. Usually businesses wait a bit for developments to mature out before jumping in.
Treovi is free for hotels to register, and free of any commissions charged hoteliers – a bit like broadcast TV in a way. Like Room Key, the booking portal launched by the big hotel groups in January, this Switzerland company apparently gets no “win” of any kind at the moment. Treovi also says they are free of any booking fees for travelers who book rooms via the channel, no credit card or other nefarious charges. This does not however differentiate the startup from Room Key in particular. What does make Treovi different then, you might ask?
The press this week is about laying out the “welcome mat” for guests (and more hotels). It is also about rapid deployment and adaptation too. 1500 hotels (60 in Africa, 200 in Asia, 500 in Europe, 300 in North America, 50 in Oceania, 50 in Latin America), this is not a huge number considering the tens of thousands worldwide, but it is very significant for so short an open beta cycle (long cycle example Gmail above). What seems most important here is that the development seems to be in for the long haul, making use of typical “beta testing” strategy so:
- Guest engagement – beta developments are essentially crowdsourced – user generated – B2C endeavors
- Hotelier engagement - Any new age beta has to communicate the B2B side of the equation
- Meld perfectly - within the context of an “open web” any true beta startup is a dynamic part of the ecosystem
- Incremental – Build, show, listen, refine, show, listen, tell, and so on… ideally, a perfect product dev cycle
- Feature Set Steroids – Developers need feedback to ramp up the features of business efficiently
Also differentiating Treovi is the fact that guests can book directly from the site (and later the mobile app) greatly simplifying the whole process. On Room Key, for example, my search for our family’s little vacation to Genoa, Italy carries me away to the World Hotels site to book. While this is not altogether a bad aspect (depending on what you want), it is a circuitous one. Plus, this all says nothing of the “suggestions” guests get at such portals. The chances of visitors on Room Key being shown a “big” hotel, as opposed to a boutique or lone selection, the Hilton’s of the world dominate positioning on Room Key.
Room Key is a very refined show platform compared to most. But, is it for everybody?
On Treovi users cannot opt for a totally agnostic set of choices. In this way, and many others, Treovi has the potential to grow much larger and faster, while at the same time adhering strictly to beta startup convention – build it the client’s way. With hotels and their guests as the “client” – the ideal is much more likely. And then there is that all important question; “How will Treovi make money?” Co-Founder offered this answer Michal Wrobel:
“We have a set of ideas for other products, but for those we want hoteliers to comment and collaborate on in the future. We want to provide comprehensive solutions that will really suit their needs.”
Another good point to be made here is, Treovi is not really a competitor for Room Key. It is however an abbreviated and more trim tool, when all is said and done.
IPOh! “R” Whatever
Treovi, or any online channel, can make money in so many different ways. Selling insurance, luggage, tours, flip flops and sunglasses, a range of ancillary products and services so numerous as to prevent me even listing them (also think Facebook IPO), this is how booking fees and commissions can be eliminated. Just as Wrobel suggest, announcing a business model in flux, just is not wise or helpful for anybody at so early a stage. This is my view, the view of most experts too.
If we look at this “free booking” propostion in another way, Google monetizes (for the most part) billions in operational costs and innovation with ads. I doubt Treovi’s servers will ever achieve a size and scale more immense than Google or Amazon.
Maybe Gonzo Arzuaga of KillerStartups fame puts it best in this The Next Web article, “Focus, execution and details” are as crucial as anything for ensuring a lasting and popular product. This, and concentrating on “just one thing” is what Treovi has to do. That thing is, providing a viable alternative for hotel booking.
A parting shot on Treovi, the creator of one of the world’s most successful beta tests, Gmail, Paul Buchheit advises developers to redefine success – in this article on VentureBeat he challenges entrepremuers to; “…innovate where tech giants like Google are afraid to.”
Treovi got off to a good start.
Photo Credits: Family photo courtesy Andres Rodriguez – Fotolia.com
Disclosure: Pamil Visions, a company within the same network as Argo Travel News, is part of the Treovi PR team.