A group of hotel and technology entrepreneurs today launched a new search tool designed to help travelers pick their own rooms by providing simulations of actual views and detailed information on everything from bed size to distance from the elevator.
Eventually, the creators say, they hope the site, called Room 77, will become a TripAdvisor of sorts for rooms, with traveler pictures and reviews offering information on things like wireless Internet strength.
"Travelers have several options that rate and review hotels, but until now there's nothing that breaks down hotel rooms, even though the room is a critical part of the experience," said founder and Chairman Brad Gerstner. "Our team has taken the first step to creatively collect and present this data, and now we're inviting the millions of travelers who check in and out of hotels every month to help in this effort."
Gerstner, founder and CEO of Boston-based Altimeter Capital, former CEO of National Leisure Group and an Orbitz board member, launched the project in 2009, after ending up in a disappointing room during a family trip to the Caribbean.
Since then, a team of engineers from companies such as Google and Facebook have been working to build the initial product, which features 500 hotels in 15 North American cities and London.
Targeting properties rated three stars and above, Room 77 has collected and indexed data on more than 425,000 hotel rooms in 2,500 properties and plans to grow that with the help of travelers and hotels. For instance, said Room 77 General Manager Kevin Fliess, founder and former CEO of TravelMuse, the company can create a database for a hotel from photos travelers send of the emergency exit maps posted on the back of their hotel room door.
Initial destinations for Room 77 include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Maui, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.
Available on the Web or through an iPhone app, Room 77 provides travelers with specific with information such as room category, square footage, bed type, elevator proximity and if it is a connecting room. For each room, Room 77 also generates a simulation of the room's view using Google Earth-enabled technology.
The best rooms for each traveler are automatically ranked using an algorithm that adjusts to the preferences entered by the traveler.
As the site grows, Fliess said, plans call for including pictures of the insides of rooms provided by both hotels and travelers as well as user-generated room reviews.
The site does not enable travelers to book specific rooms but offers travelers tips on how to request and secure them from hotel companies. It also has links to hotel booking websites and Orbitz.
Fliess said the company will make money on commissions for driving business to hotels that Room 77 establishes relationships with. It will also create a verification stamp for those hotels that work with the site to validate and expand on its data.
Room 77 expects to add new features, data, mobile platforms and cities in the months ahead.
"Now that we've built the base platform to house hotel room data globally, our goal is to continue expanding our content while also exploring ways we can integrate Room 77's data more closely with hotel property management systems -- all to provide a more seamless experience for travelers," Gerstner said. "We know from research that the vast majority of travelers who stay in hotels and shop online want room-level data from a service like ours, so we're incredibly excited to hand over the keys and open the doors to Room 77."
In addition to Gerstner, Room 77 is backed by a number of travel and technology entrepreneurs and institutional investors, including Bob Pittman, founder of MTV; Rich Barton, founder of Expedia and Zillow; Erik Blachford, former president and CEO of IAC Travel; and Hugh Crean, former head of Farecast/Bing Travel. Other investors include Par Capital Management, an early investor in ITA, Farecast and Orbitz; Sutter Hill Ventures, which also invested in Farecast; and Felicis Ventures.