Nov. 10, 2011 at 7:30 AM ET
Ever wonder if anybody reads what you write in those “Special Request” boxes on hotel booking sites?
The folks at Room 77 obviously have and claim to have come up with a way to boost the odds that you’ll get the room you want with the amenities you prefer. On Thursday, the site unveiled a Room Concierge service in an effort to provide more transparency to a typically opaque process.
The service is the site’s latest effort to resolve one of the anomalies of booking hotel rooms.
“You can see seat maps for aircraft and deck plans for cruise ships but individual hotel rooms have been a complete black box,” said Kevin Fleiss, general manager and vice president of product. “The concierge team is there to ensure that an intelligent room request is made in a timely fashion and to confirm that the request was received.”
The service builds on the site’s “room search” technology that lets users input room preferences (high or low floor, importance of a view, etc.) and view stack-ranked results for individual rooms. In select cases, the results are integrated with the hotel’s floor plan and Google Maps to provide a computer-generated image of the actual view outside the window.
While the window-view feature is currently available for only 3,000 hotels, Room Concierge can be accessed for any of the 3-star or higher hotels in the site’s 128,000-hotel database. There’s no fee, although it’s only offered on bookings made through Room 77, not via its links to hotel sites and online travel agencies.
Users can further fine-tune their searches by filtering, either by checking boxes for specific amenities, views and neighborhoods, etc., or by typing the words into a search box. In Honolulu, for example, entering “Diamond Head, free breakfast” winnows the results from 89 hotels to the 10 that offer both the view and a morning meal.
“It’s a quick and easy way for consumers to refine their search using terms or topics that are most relevant to them,” Fleiss said. When it’s time to book, they can add requests for specific rooms, etc., which the concierge team will then communicate to the hotel. Users are notified of the status of their requests 48 hours before check-in.
Does it work? Room 77 can’t guarantee that room requests will be honored but during beta testing, Fleiss says 90 percent of guests reported getting a room that met or exceeded their expectations.
Conversely, “93 percent of consumers think they get an average or worse room when they book through online travel sites,” he said, citing a company-sponsored survey. “We tip the odds in their favor.”
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.