If you are tired of the lack of differentiation that seems to permeate travel start-ups from time to time, then you might appreciate New York City-based Jetsetter, which started a beta test last week.
Jetsetter's founder and CEO is Drew Patterson, a former vice president of marketing at Kayak, who presumably knows a thing or two about metasearch and the advertising/media business.
But Jetsetter is a hotel-booking website that uses the merchant model and has no metasearch or media business.
In fact, Patterson, who generally has great things to say about Kayak, says Jetsetter works with luxury hotel partners and avoids the alleged pifalls of websites like Kayak and DealBase, where he says advertisers offer low lead-in prices with the aim of securing higher-priced conversions.
Jetsetter.com states: "We aim to simplify things. Great hotels at great prices. No guesswork, no games. That's Jetsetter."
Jetsetter is funded by, and partners with, members-only Gilt Groupe, a supposed 1.5 million-member seller of luxury fashion brands.
Jetsetter, too, is a closed-loop, invitation-only affair, and the two companies plan a lot of cross-marketing among their respective membership bases.
So, you won't see Jetsetter -- for now, at least -- engaged in a lot of paid search and trotting out its traffic metrics as a barometer of success.
"We are playing a slightly different game with a different set of relationships," Patterson says.
Other divergencies from most hotel booking websites include the fact that Jetsetter runs hotel sales of upscale properties for a couple of days only, and plans to limit the number of properties offered simultaneously. (Gilt uses a similar model for its fashion sales.)
Thus, while most hotel booking sites are touting their comprehensiveness, Patterson says you'll never see Jetsetter marketing 35 properties at once.
Thus today, Monday Oct. 19, 2009, Jetsetter was offering two sales, including one for Hotel Healdsburg, a member of Design Hotels located northwest of Napa Valley in Sonoma County, Calif., with the offer ending on Wednesday at 3 a.m.
Jetsetter members could book a premier room with a king-size bed at Healdsburg in late November for $239 per night plus taxes and fees.
Expedia.com doesn't offer a merchant-model rate for Hotel Healdsburg, but displayed the room on an agency-model basis for a base rate of $328.
Amy Ziff, former editor-at-large at Travelocity, is Jetsetter's creative director.
Jetsetter displays hotel pics and has a calendar for availability searches, but there is nothing in the GUI itself that wows you or sets the website apart on a visual basis.
Jetsetter also offers print-newspaper-style property reviews by Jetsetter correspondents.
The review for Hotel Healdsburg seems very marketing-oriented, with never a tainted cork to be found.
Speaking of corks, we can give Jetsetter some time to find its bearings because, after all, having just started its beta test, Jetsetter is in the process of getting uncorked.
Will the walled garden approach to marketing luxury hotels work for Jetsetter?
That is the key question.
Meanwhile, I expect Jetsetter will be looking to enter into other membership-oriented partnerships beyond its maiden Gilt relationship as a means of enlarging the wall garden.