Hotel suppliers like Choice Hotels International, Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group, threw a punch today aimed straight at the OTAs (Online Travel Agents) – like Expedia and Priceline – by launching a joint venture called Room Key. Now at first view this is awesome! It provides a new alternative search experience to find and book hotels. The home page is clean and simple in its design (something we can’t always say for hotel or OTA sites). But stepping back there are some questions one has to ask as to how this even came about and why.
I won’t bore anyone with details but it is fairly easy to find information out there about how competitive the Hospitality Supplier space is as a whole. They are all trying to vie for not only your and my hard-earned vacation dollars, but also which Hotel Brand (i.e Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Marriott etc) the owners of the individual hotels choose. Throw in the OTAs and it adds a whole new level to the mix – which makes the Republican, Democrat, and Independent fighting on Capitol Hill (and in the Media) look calm by comparison at times!
To help you understand think of Room Key like a new Hulu, but for the Hotel Suppliers. You take a bunch of competitors who normally don’t even like talking to each other, throw ‘em in a room, and somehow they form a new company together. I mean a few years ago who would have thought that Fox, Disney, NBC etc would come together to create a company called Hulu? But they did because to them Google’s YouTube was a big enough threat to their profit models and control they wanted to have over their content. That is really what happened here. The OTAs have become a big enough threat to the ecosystem and the control which Hotel Suppliers (aka franchisers) have over their product and profitability that they had to do something. Room Key was their answer.
So just like Hulu (I know I should stop with the comparisons but could you?) the hotel companies come to the table with their “content” which is basically, hotels & room inventory. They provide this to the OTAs as well in a limited fashion, but the big difference here is they have complete control! They own Room Key! Yes it is an independently operating entity but really nothing happens without the input of the majority shareholders which in this case are the Marriotts and Choice Hotels of the world. Can they continue to work together to make it succeed? Or will this end up floating along never really becoming a contender because of too many competing interests?
Check out the site. It is clean! I like the search experience and according to their press release found on the site it will only get better.
Sound off below in the comments and let me know what you think about the site… This wasn’t intended as a review. Do you think it will float or sink?