A news release yesterday via Business Wire tells of conglomerate hotel booking site Room Key’s coming out of Beta status. What’s curious about this news is not so much the fluffy nature of it, but claims of millions having flocked to the startup to book their hotel rooms. At least this is the feel of the announcement. A bit of one of those “non-event” specialties creative PR agencies excel at perhaps? What’s the real story?
Room Key, for those millions who never heard of it (who will undoubtedly be arriving here any moment), is actually a quite brilliant attempt by six of the world’s biggest and best hotel chains to circumvent (or at least augment) the role of online travel agencies (OTAs) in their booking and revenue eqautions. Put simply, a direct connect so that travelers can book at Hilton or Marriott, etc., without the said hotels paying “tribute” (commissions) to Expedia and the like. On the face of Room Key, and with the decent effort, a super duper idea. Except.
Expedia, Orbitz, the other OTAs have just chugged along as if Room Key, and half a dozen other similar engagements, never even existed. Room Key bosses (or their PR) have dribbled out some news about this or that, but the weight of information coming from John Davis’ latest innovative has been their very recent dealings with none other than TripAdvisor and the reviews of Room Key, and of course the news the company hired Porter Novelli as their PR agency of record (AOR). And the sentiment by experts, is lukewarm at best.
The kicker is. Well, Tnooz’s Dennis Schaal reports aptly on Room Key not only having climbed in bed with TripAdvisor, but with Sabre as well. I quote Schaal:
“Four-month-old Room Key checked out of beta and revealed new partnerships with Sabre Hospitality andTravelClick as it attempts to bulk up its hotel choices with independent properties and additional chains.”
Testing – 1,2,?
Room Key’s claim to 1.9 million March visits, while ambitious by Compete metric standards (below) is not the real curiosity where the startup’s “Beta” testing adaptation goes. At least not for me. What is curious is, how the site skyrocketed into the stratosphere of web visitation without a significant ad budget? With a minuscule search visitation? With no real social media, PR, marketing, or even a radio push? That is, not one most would notice. I remember Davis heralding some pop ups redirecting hotel site visitors to Room Key, but somehow I doubt exiting guests will be thrilled at revisiting via Room Key, exit traffic strategies? Maybe I was wrong? CEO Davis offered this via the most recent press release:
“With website traffic reaching nearly two million visitors per month in our first 90 days, we’re thrilled with the consumer response to Room Key and will continue to expand our offerings as part of our ongoing commitment to helping travelers search, book and relax.”
- Room Key has 186 likes on Facebook.
- Key searches do not reveal Room Key unless one tries very hard
- Competitors like Virtual Tourist even (they spend a ton on ads) rank higher
- What search traffic Room Key has looks like direct URL visits (to me)
- No major news coverage, not even blogs to speak of (only the most dilligent, Tnooz)?
Even with the Trust International deal in Room Key’s sails, somehow the big hotel OTA that should, could, just does not add up to a viable tool, let alone a revenue generator yet. One million, two million, three potato, four… No social, no ads, no PR to speak of, no search, someone is hitting Room Key hard via bookmark or direct typing their url. Maybe every Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Wyndham Worldwide, and Hyatt Hotels have their desk clerks logging on and off with every shift? Now there’s an idea worth a million dollars!
Let’s see. Say the six hotels have, conservatively, 20,000 hotels under their various brands. Now. Multiply three shifts times 20 thousand, and you come up with 60,000 visits per day to Room Key. Now, multiply that number by 30 and magically (sort of like Room Key’s traffic) we come up with 1.8 million visitors. What was the press release number? 1.9 million?
However Room Key manages to drive their traffic and conversions, one thing is certain. With some PR, some ads, and using my ideas here, the big six hotels will have their own TripAdvisor soon. Whether or not anyone who visits actually books or not? What’s the real story? Your guess is as good as mine.
Oh. I almost forgot. Room Key’s celebration to reward travelers on Facebook… I had better let you know about it here, it is all but hidden on Facebook. You can win.
An exciting weekend getaway for you and three friends, including:
- Three-night’s accommodations at a hotel of your choice*
- Round-trip airfare
- $1,000 to spend on golf, the spa, scrumptious cuisine–a sweet way to make the most of your weekend
- PLUS transportation to and from the airport
Go here, find your perfect hotel where you and your pals would like to stay, submit 100 words and some photos, and POOF! You could be in like Flint. Plus, if you hurry you’ll only be up against me and 5 other contestants. (Readers, was I too rough?)
Your welcome John.
Goofy blue bird mashup, courtesy Apple – Fotolia.com