This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Bob Diener, Co-Founder of Hotels.com & GetaRoom.com. Bob Diener has been a pioneer in the hotel consolidation and online travel industry for more than 25 years. In 1984, Diener and his college classmate, David Litman, began a career in the airline consolidation business. The two later founded Hotel Reservations Network, now known as Hotels.com, in 1991. Diener talks to ExpertFlyer about his latest venture as President and Co-Founder of the online travel site, www.getaroom.com, a resource specializing in the best hotel rooms at the best values.
— Bob Diener, Co-Founder of Hotels.com & GetaRoom.com
There are many hotel booking sites in the marketplace offering “best hotel rooms for the best value,” including your former company, Hotels.com, and newer contenders, like Room77com. Describe what getaroom.com is all about and what is the unique value-add that the service offers travelers?
We are the only company that offers unpublished rates which are typically 10-20% off and as much as 60% off the lowest rates online. We have over 25,000 hotels participating. The hotels give us lower rates than they offer direct or offer anyone else – and they are only available by contacting our call center at 1-800-468-3578 (1-800-HOTELS8).
We also offer a large number of flash sales daily. Flash sales are special sales for limited periods of time typically up to 48 hours. You must book the hotel within the flash sale booking window but can usually stay whenever you want. The discounts are usually 10-60% off the lowest online rate. This causes consumers to make a decision quickly to take advantage of the deal and fills a large percentage of the hotel rapidly.
Your home page prompts visitors who “want a better deal” to call for “secret unpublished rates.” Can you elaborate on that and why you would you want to move customers away from your website to a call center?
90% of the interaction is done online. Hotel comparison shopping, view amenities, descriptions, user comments, maps, directions. They only call us to get the lower unpublished rate.
Since being acquired in 2001, Hotels.com has become part of the largest online travel company in the world. Do you think you have the right mix of features and market demand in getaroom.com to create another Hotels.com?
We are more of a niche site, but we are growing at triple digit rates because consumers want value and we figured out how to deliver that.
Is getaroom.com essentially a hotel room consolidation business? Are your relationships with vacation properties unique? What’s different or exclusive about your inventory?
We are a consolidator. Some of our relationships are unique. For example, we have properties, such as the Luxury Suites at the Signature MGM in Las Vegas, where we offer large deluxe suites on the Las Vegas Strip from $79 a night through a special block of rooms within the property. We have properties like this in many major destinations.
There’s a growing trend and demand among dollar conscious travelers who are opting for lower-cost rental accommodations in residential homes and apartments. Sites like www.airbnb.com and www.homeaway.com have surged in popularity over the past few years. How are you competing with these options?
We now offer “shared bath” accommodations at great properties like the Jane and Pod in New York with rooms typically close to $100 a night even during the busy season. These are trendy, popular and well run hotels in central areas that either have part or the entire hotel set up with a hallway bathroom for several units, similar to a B&B. Rates can be as much as 80% less than the same hotel room with a bath, just without the bath in the room.
What other exciting developments can we look forward to from getaroom.com over the next year?
We are adding destinations at a fast pace. We are almost up to 100,000 hotels, resorts and vacation rentals worldwide and will continue to add. We are also expanding the hotels participating on both our unpublished rate program and our flash sale program. We will continue to innovate to find special values for consumers.