I was unsuccessful in reaching Hotwire Group President Clem Bason yesterday about getaroom.com, the start-up launched by the founders of hotels.com, because Bason was said to be -- of all things -- traveling. I would still love to hear from Hotwire on this issue.
But, I asked Priceline spokesman Brian Ek how he sees the hotel landscape and whether consumers would be better served to use getaroom.com over Priceline.
"Regarding your questions, it’s just about impossible to draw any comparisons since we’re hearing that our major hotel chain supplier/partners aren’t supporting it [getaroom.com]," Ek said. "They see it as non-opaque and dilutive to their ADRs (average daily rates)."
"From a hotel’s perspective, if a customer can get a discount at the exact hotel they’re looking at, why would they ever pay full price?" Ek mused. "It just hurts the hotel’s ADR at a time when hotels are doing their best to keep ADRs up."
Indeed, there apparently are a paucity of major chains using getaroom.com, which displays published and discounted rates on its website and asks consumers to phone its call center for additional unpublished bargains.
I checked getaroom.com today for Boston hotels Aug. 14-16 and found merely a dozen hotels displayed -- and just three local properties, a Radisson, a Millennium and a Wyndham, that are part of larger brands.
On Ek's point about ADR dilution, the Wyndham Boston Chelsea displayed a $200 base rate per night with a line through it and showed that room was now being offered for $160 per night.
That may be great for the consumer, but for the hotel's brand -- not so much.
Indeed, the Wyndham Boston Chelsea was transparently offering a discounted rate. Over at Orbitz.com, that same room was being offered for a base rate of $176.25.
I searched getaroom.com for Chicago hotels on the same nights and found an underwhelming 15 hotels on display there.
Interestingly, getaroom.com may have changed its mode of prompting consumers to phone its call centers for discounts.
While in the past getaroom.com displayed a message to "call for special unpublished rates" within the displays of some individual properties, now I see it is showing that message at the top of pages without pointing to specific hotels for cut-rate discounts.
That change may be a way to reduce the dilutive effect of a property's discounting -- or at least a bow to hotels' sensitivities on that front.
I had another thought about the apparent lack of chains' participation in getaroom.com.
In addition to concerns about discounting and lack of opacity, do getaroom.com owners Bob Diener and David Litman, who also co-founded hotels.com, have to battle still-raw resentment about hotels.com's distribution clout back in the day?
Methinks that may be a smoldering issue.
Meanwhile, Priceline, with its scale and flexibility, may have it all over getaroom.com and some other players in terms of the depths of discounts that it can offer travelers.
Comparing getaroom.com to Priceline, however, is apples to grapefruits. Priceline is established and getaroom.com is a newbie.
Also, although Priceline's opaque deals may be of better value overall for consumers, getaroom.com has value too because consumers know the identity of the hotel they are booking before they provide their credit card numbers.
And, that latter tack will appeal to plenty of consumers.
Still, Priceline President and CEO Jeffery Boyd wasn't talking about getaroom.com specifically, but he addressed the discounting issue during the company's second quarter conference call Aug. 10.
"We make business decisions as to whether to commit resources to matching those promotions and I think here domestically, our Name-Your-Own Price savings still are dramatically more favorable to the customer than one-night free if you buy four nights," Boyd said, referring to prevailing discounting trends.
Boyd added: "So we feel like we are very strongly positioned, even with that kind of promotional activity here, although there’s nothing to say that in future, we wouldn’t be able to offer that kind of a thing here in the United States and there’s nothing in the booking.com model or the Agoda model [two Priceline subsidiaries in Europe and Asia, respectively] that prevents them from offering that kind of lower pricing for multi-night stays, which is really what the principal promotional activity has been here in the United States and in Europe."
To paraphrase what Boyd seems to be saying to competitors and their discounting: "Bring it on."
getaroom, getaroom, getaroom.com
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