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A Review of (Imagine Seatguru for Hotels, Kinda)

Continuing my brief series of reviews of new travel sites (following this recent review of, today I’ll share a review of, a site that is trying to do for hotels what Seatguru does for airlines.  In short, they will give you a floormap of a hotel and, more impressively, a photograph of the view from the room (or at least it’s an approximation of the view using a mashup of Google Maps’ satellite imagery to show you the view outside the room.  Kinda neat.

Room77 also allows for some personalized recommendations, asking you to input what’s most important to you about a room (ie, whether it’s on a high floor, etc) and they’ll give you room recommendations in the hotel that best match your needs.

The idea of this is interesting, though I have to ask:  What problem is this actually trying to solve?  If you’re interested in a room with a certain view type (ie, ocean view room), you can generally book that category of room already.  If there’s a specific room you want, just about every hotel of any size will tell you they can’t guarantee a specific room (the complexities of maximizing occupancy make that a challenge).  Room77 even acknowledges this in their “tips” section about the Sheraton Chicago: “River view rooms can’t be specifically booked online. Reserve the room type you prefer, then call ahead and/or request a river view upon arrival at the hotel…”  Well, duh.  Isn’t this what we’ve always done?  Why do I need another site for that?

To be fair, the site just launched, and the content is very, very weak as of now (“The higher the floor, the quieter your room is likely to be.”  Who knew?).  But if they can strike a deal with hotel chains where you can reserve a specific room, it would become more interesting.  And if they can do this for cruise ships (where you’re stuck in a room for 7 days), that, too, would be very interesting.

This does feel more like a feature of another site than a standalone product, which may certainly be the idea.  But as I said about Hipmunk, any innovation in how we book travel online is a good thing, and Room77′s idea is one that has not yet been tried.  I’m just not sure anyone really needs it.

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  1. what would be cool is if they let users fill the info/pictures on the floorplan. Say you go to a specific Hyatt (grand central for example). you take a picture of your room, maybe whatever else you have access to (other sites already have pictures of the pool/gym/whatever else is common). But the neat thing would be crowd-sourcing the pictures of INSIDE the individual rooms (with some photo tips when you register). I could see this being very useful for resorts in some countries where people keep ping-ponging on which rooms have been renovated, which buildings, etc. With such a feature, you could see each room that was visited by a member of this crowd-sourcing mob. I guess tripadvisors would simply need to make available hotel and resort layouts with floor plans of each building. More information is better. And yes, the hipmunk thing (total travel time on a timescale) is really cool, I hope all sites out there embrace it (maybe as a different option to view the list of fares [view on timescale]).
    I think the ultimate way to shop for a resort would be to start at the map level, see the icons of where the resorts are, airport, etc. Then click on one/zoom in and see the layout with panimaro type icons for the pictures, then be able to click on any building and see pictures from the inside. Actually, google maps could have such an option. Maybe it already has? Hmmm… Google street view for INSIDE the building. Yeah, I bet this is an old idea…

  2. I’m going to guess that they will ultimately move to a crowdsourced model where users submit photographs (tripadvisor + flickr). That said, they have some pretty heavy hitters as investors, so they may be looking at this as a technology problem (ie, how do we use Google Maps to get virtual views out the window) rather than something I could built (submit your photos).

  3. Wow at last, a way to research the rooms before you leave home. This is a great idea especially for all those people who have opened the curtains after a night arrival and been faced with a brick wall or a really bland view. Great stuff.

  4. Jared,

    Thank you for your review of our site! We are currently crowdsourcing floorplans and room reviews from our iPhone app but we also expect to expose that functionality on our site soon. Regarding the problem we’re trying to solve, it’s that the guest today has no insight into detailed specifics about the room they will get when they check-in. Even within category, there are vast differences in the attributes of a room including view, accessibility, and noise. For example, take the Paris hotel in Las Vegas. If you search for room 2927, a Red Room Luxury 2 Queen, you will see a beautiful view of the Bellagio fountains. If you were assigned 2987, you get a view of the top of the parking garages behind the hotel. We have many more of these examples that I am happy to share.

    We currently don’t offer any guarantees that you will get the room and our tips are generalized but we are working on piloting a program to offer room guarantees in the future. In many cases however, we do expect hotels to accomodate your request if it’s possible especially given the occupancy rates and the desire to have higher guest satisfaction.

    We believe that we are building the first hotel room database and search engine to a level of detail that doesn’t exist today. We are at 400K+ rooms indexed with a targeted of several million worldwide so we’ve got our work cut out for us.

    We’re working on some new additions and improvements in coming months that will make the engine a lot more helpful when shopping for a hotel. Keep an eye on us and thanks again for the feedback and review!

  5. I’ve actually considered doing this exact thing before, and even started some of the pictures for it at one point. While you certainly can’t gaurantee a specific room number, changes go up if you give them a couple room numbers that you’d really like. I know there are hotels out there that I have specific rooms that I prefer to get. My idea (and it looks like room77 beat me to it) was to take pictures of rooms I’d stayed in, along with the floor plan of the hotel, to put up a graphical representation of the hotel along with pictures of the rooms. I wasn’t going to focus so much on the view (because typically it isn’t my focus), rather the room itself, but same premise.

    Glad someone is taking it forward as I wasn’t going to get around to it :)

  6. Thumbs up to you!! I used your website and it made finding a room so much easier. All other sites there to see at one time … no back and forth between windows. I’m very impressed and look forward to your new and improved version. Thanks from someone who travels constantly for a living. You’ve made my life easier!!! :grin:

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