Is Room Key the hotel version of the Empire Strikes Back?
Last week Roomkey.com, a new hotel search engine, went live. But instead of a third-party consolidator like Expedia or Travelocity, Room key is operated by a consortium of big-gun hotel chains whose properties it handles exclusively.
The choices are impressive if you favor name-brand properties. Founding members include Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotel Group. A day after the site went up, Best Western International joined the team.
And just like that, the Hotel Six (Plus One) took a deft swipe at the online travel agencies that help fill their rooms but cut into hotel profits. A search engine rather than a booking site, Room key shows you each hotel’s availability and price, then sends you directly to the hotel’s site, effectively sidestepping intermediaries.
At present, 23,000 hotel rooms are available, but Room key expects inventory to reach 80,000 rooms by the end of the year as more hotel groups come on board, according to HotelNewsNow.
Intrigued, we clicked onto Room key and took a quick test drive. First impression? It lives up to its mission to be “simple, fast and fun.”
Since we’re Overnight New York we typed in our fair city and set out to find a room for Saturday, January 28. Bingo. Up popped a whopping 86 possibilities in Manhattan and the outer boroughs in a wide band of prices. Agreeable prices (it’s low season; you won’t see these in May). A sampling:
Andaz Wall Street ($166), Comfort Inn Times Square ($125), Days Inn Bronx-Yankee Stadium ($139), Intercontinental New York Times Square ($259), Hilton New York ($199), Marriott Residence Inn Times Square ($199), the Waldorf=Astoria ($259), Windgate by Wyndham Manhattan Midtown ($153) and the Ritz–Carlton New York Central Park ($595).
Offerings are presented in one of three ways — as a list, a grid or on a map (your choice). Besides a star rating, each listing features the hotel’s base price, price with tax, a photo, chain affiliation and location. If you see something you like, you click onto the name, and zip – you land on the hotel Web site, ready to book.
How do prices stack up? They were identical to those offered on Expedia with the exception of the Hilton New York, which was $199 on Room key and $164 on Expedia. Still, when we burrowed into the Hilton site, we found the $164 rate, albeit with a few strings attached.
Nice site, in other words. We’ll be back.