Fed up with trawling through booking sites to find a deal? New service Bidroom turns the current system on its head by inviting hotels to compete to offer the best deals to potential guests
The hard work of searching for a hotel deal online can be enough to put you off going away. Now, a start-up is turning the current system on its head by inviting hotels to bid for customers, in the hope of radically improving the experience.
Bidroom, which launched this month, is a free platform that asks travellers to fill in the dates and location of their stay. The site passes this information on to hotels, which have 24 hours to respond with an offer. The hotels can see any other bids that are on the table, which should prompt some healthy competition in favour of the guest.
"It's absurd that hotels and customers have allowed themselves to be bullied by these middlemen, who basically add no value at all for the traveller," says Mark Bradshaw, co-founder of Bidroom. He and four friends who work in the hotel industry came up with the idea after hearing hotels complain that booking sites' commission rates were so high they were robbing them of their margins.
"We're just doing this because we think it's a good idea. The running costs are pretty low. We just wanted to shake everyone up a bit."
Bradshaw admits it will take some time to wean customers away from the usual routine of entering their dates before trawling through listings for a deal. With Bidroom, the customer needs to wait patiently for bids to come in, and is alerted to them by email. The hotels have 24 hours to respond, and the customer is given the same time to seal a deal once the first bid comes in, encouraging a speedy sale.
Because Bidroom doesn't take any commission, there's ample opportunity for hotels to offer savings that would usually end up being paid as fees to the booking sites, who can charge hotels between 18% and 25% for each transaction. There are so far around 10,000 hotels on Bidroom's database, and the team is working "frantically" to get more involved.
An anonymous request Guardian Travel put in for a long weekend in Paris in March resulted in four bids, with the final two bids each cheaper than the last. One hotel offered a 57% discount on three nights in a double room – €315 down from €729 – and all bid lower than the rates advertised on their sites.
Bidroom has also got new features in the pipeline. "We've got a plan to roll out things like Bidroom Direct, where you can select a specific hotel, and if they don't come up with a good bid, you can invite others to pitch in," says Bradshaw. "We're also going to let people select areas, rather than cities. Travel agents could use it too, rather than having to call round individual hotels."
In the meantime, anything that can save consumers from drowning in a sea of web browser windows in their online hunt for a hotel deal, is likely to be welcomed.
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image: © Unique Hotels Group