Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Clem Bason, President of Hotwire, the leading US discount travel website. He was visiting London for Hotwire’s launch into the UK market.
Owned by Expedia, Hotwire offers discount hotel deals in cities worldwide. Unlike flash sale sites such as the private sale site Jetsetter and group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, the key difference with the Hotwire business model is that the customer does not see the name of the hotel when searching for discounted offers.
This enables the hotel to offer heavily discounted deals without fear of damaging their brand name. I feel that this is an important differentiator as many hotels partnering with flash sale sites don’t seem to be considering the damage to their brand. A cheap deal at a hairdresser’s might lure a customer back if they are impressed with the cut, but taking a hotel break for leisure is not something people have the luxury of doing that often – surely making them unlikely to go back and pay full rate? I see most flash sale buyers to be bargain hunters in search of that one time deal.
When quizzed on the competition from the sudden flood of flash sales sites offering travel deals, Clem did not see them as a trend that has longevity.
Lastminute.com already has a similar unnamed hotel discount offering to Hotwire for the UK market with their ‘Top Secret hotel’ option however Clem was not afraid to take on the competition highlighting that Hotwire offer a wider range of hotels that can be booked for a prolonged period and not just 1 or 2 nights.
Hotwire aim to encourage travellers to consider booking their hotel deals for longer periods which enables the hotelier to discount further. I think this is ideal for hotel bargain hunters. I personally love researching specific hotel details before booking a place to stay though!
Travel Ticker® which is part of the Hotwire offering has interesting behind the scenes functionality whereby the customer is offered deals that specifically relevant to their prior search behaviour on the site. Collecting such information on consumers and their preferences is certainly a key trend to watch in the online travel space and will be something we will be discussing in more deal over the coming weeks.