Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jumping good, Booking bad

You don't need me to tell you about the Flickr phenomenon, just to point to the travel players trying to take advantage of the traffic and community that comes from photo sharing. A not-so-new player that I came across while reading the New York times online is HotelsByCity.net.

On the fun side - I love the bed jumping competition photos section - huge collection of photos of people doing jump after jump after jump including wackos in their birthday suits, dressed in costume and risking life and limb.

On the features side - they have an outline map of a hotel showing the rooms/locations of photos submitted by users (here is an example from the Grand Hyatt in San Fran. Note - not all hotels have this feature.

On the business model front - there is strong consumer benefit in having access to photos not fluffed by the hotel. Further (assuming they have the scale they claim) this is great at driving repeat visitors and customer retention. Their business model seams simple - use photo driven content and community to drive traffic to the booking engine. That said, I made three searches in three cities and could not get a rate or booking option. Hotel results were posted with photos, maps and reviews but attempts to get to a confirmed rate and booking page failed every time. The main error message was that my check-out date did not come after check-in but (a) that was not true (I triple checked each time) and (b) there is no chance to confirm or correct on the error page, you have to use the back button. So - great content, great PR generator in the bed jumping but can end up a waste of time if people can't book anything.

3 comments:

Andrew Loewen said...

Hello Tim,

Andrew here from HotelsByCity.net, thanks for the positive feedback on some of the features and sections we have added to try and create a unique user experience. Our philosophy is that booking a hotel should be fun! That being said, I'm disappointed to here that you struggled with actually retrieving rate and availability information. Is it possible for you to expand on what page you where searching from. We spend 100's of hours a month just trying to make this site the best it can be, I would like to do whatever we can to fix the problem you had.

Thanks again,

Andrew

Tim Hughes said...

Andrew - thanks for your comment. I will put together some screenshots of my experience and send them through to you. Send me the best email to send them through - or maybe you are comfortable with me posting them on the blog

Andrew Loewen said...

Hello Tim,

If you want to post them on the blog that's fine by me, i think it would benefit other visitors of this site to see some examples and tweaks that can be made to help improve the overall booking process.

P.S. sorry for the delay in responding.

Andrew