In travel technology news from yesterday Tnooz carried the announcement that six of the world’s largest hotel proprietors had launched a booking commune Roomkey. Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, InterContinental Hotels, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotel Group set sail on a joint venture which is piloted by Pegasus founder John Davis. Argophilia Travel News decided to take the new flagship for a ride.
What You See
After testing several thousand new startups, one tends to develop a “lingo” for this and that characteristic of a development. For Roomkey a familiar descriptive is “clean” along with a smidgen of aesthetic fluffiness. These meant to express the hotel people hired a really good design team, one that thinks of such user values. This aesthetic generally means a lot where “under the hood” features are concerned too. So, a visitor to Roomkey will certainly find eye candy, and stay a while.
Hometown Goodness Test
Walking the streets of Charleston, SC as a child, being enamored with the place, this late in life knowing every storm drain in the city pays off when hotels booking agents visit the web. Okay, off with the parables, I wanted to see if six of the largest hotels chains on Earth offer potential guests anything more than a decent website layout here.
User Experience – Fast, with the aforementioned pretty feature, Roomkey afford a no nonsense utility set. Refined buttons for filtering, changing your dates, and a super orderly display of hotels/room rates, makes navigating this site a pleasure. Sure, more advanced ways of looking about than scrolling would be great, but the page length is not obtrusive. The site gets very high marks for being user friendly, very high.
Hotel Price Etc. – Roomkey does a very nice job of showing of the hotels of the aforementioned cartel members. As you can see in the image below, filtering results in a range of accommodations in close to Charleston’s historic city center. As for these being you “best bet” in the city? Let’s just say Roomkey does a nice job of showing off their hotels. Some are great choices like the Mills House on Meeting Street. At the end of the day, the middlemen are still safe.
Booking – The slick UI delivers guests to the official site of their selected hotel (a great way to do business). In our test case on the Mills House by Holiday Inn, their site is a bit more confusing than Roomkey actually. After sorting out whether or not you have a government, corporate, special handshake, or other rate – on past looking at other choices in beds, pillows, closets, and even what’s for breakfast – the user ends up figuring out the Roomkey suggested Mills House rate of $174 bucks a night (more or less). Just fill in your family’s history and BINGO! Interestingly, Google Hotel Finder (see screen below) lists the same room at $3 less at Travelocity? Unfortunately this room/rate is sold out. Ugh.
Roomkey, beneath some decent website refinements, offers little in the way of better pricing or even informative. It is built nice, organized well, and easy to use, but it does not solve any real “point of pain” for new clients. For brand loyal customers? Well, we expect Mills House clients would as easily call their old friends, I believe the Director of Sales there was Trip Hayes when I last stayed. He can be reached at 843.577.240, or via email. The “tongue in cheek” here is out of consideration for your Charleston (or anyplace) getaway. Roomkey is about limiting choice, a filter to show you what someone else wants you to see.
What You Get
Roomkey could be a superb value proposition for these six hotels (and others who may join the click). For now though, the concept appears to be nothing more than a place holder – a sort of answer to pressures by Google Hotel Finder (Travel), initiatives like our own Tom Magnuson of Global Hotel Exchange announced, and the heated battle for regaining the bottom line – taking back what the big OTAs snatch in commissions. Will people use Roomkey? Nice try, but better things are surely coming.
Some brand conscious and loyal customers may revert, some thousands will try Roomkey out on the marketing and news thereof, but unless more value is presented… Let’s put it this way, would you as soon I told you the best place for your buck to stay there in Charleston? I will, you know? Here are two choices if you want to be downtown.
Using Google Hotel Finder you will note The Francis Marion Hotel as being cheaper than many other suggested ones. Roomkey’s offering at the old Citadel, Embassy Suites, is a bit more expensive for no reason. The Francis Marion (image top) was and is a roaring 20’s showplace on the corner of Calhoun and King Streets. Gayle Karolczyk is the General Manager there, you can contact here via the website, or just call reservations at (843) 722-0600. But, for a stay you will never forget.
White Point Gardens is at the core of what Charleston, SC is all about. Without reliving whimsicle childhood rompings, let’s just say this is the most picturesque spot in the city. A carriage clops on by, elegant oaks strew their mossy tendrils toward the mansions of an era long since gone by. Two Meeting Street Inn (immortalized artistically below) is an antebellum wonder situated on the park, viewing the harbor. Southern Living Magazine has all but made this romantic bed and breakfast its poster child. The bottom line being, you won’t find the inn on Roomkey. From about $179 – roughly $500 per night, you can be a Charlestonian for a while here. Call Pete and Jean Spell or Karen Spell Shaw for a family owned experience of a lifetime. 843-723-7322
It’s what Mig and I will be doing.