A new online booking tool has rolled out to help smokers find hotel rooms where it's OK to light up.
Lake Forest, Calif.-based Smoketels.com has a database of more than 250,000 smoking-allowed hotel rooms, said founder and smoker Shawn Bradley. “On existing online travel reservation sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia, you have to click on the hotel and then look to see if there might be any smoking rooms,” he said. “That gets very confusing and frustrating. Our inventory only includes hotels where smoking rooms are available.”
An increasing number of hotels, such as Marriott and Starwood, have made all their U.S. properties 100 percent smoke-free. “But many Days Inn and Quality Inn properties — and many hotels in the South, where there are still many heavy smokers — will generally have smoking rooms available,” said Bradley.
In a 2012 survey of 52,000 properties conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 63 percent reported being 100 percent smoke-free. “But keep in mind,” said Bradley, “many hotel chains that ban smoking in their U.S. properties have smoking rooms available at their properties in other countries.”
Many of the estimated 43.8 million adult smokers in the U.S. who travel will smoke even if they have to rent a nonsmoking room. “They’ll burn candles, use cologne, blow the smoke out the windows, all in an effort to mask the smoke,” said Bradley.
Smoketels.com may have a hard time going up against existing online travel agencies, said Marcello Gasdia, a consumer analyst with PhoCusWright.
“The only way to generate revenue is to steal market share,” said Gasdia. “That’s a tough thing to do when you’re going against entrenched players like Priceline, Expedia or Kayak. Going for a niche audience is one approach, but it’s still difficult to pull any consumer from these household name brands.”