Coming out of beta four months ago, San Francisco start-up GetGoing has elicited buzz because of its unique opaque booking product for vacation packages: "pick two, get one."
Today the San Francisco company adds traditional hotel booking to its menu of options -- with an inventory of 140,000 hotels in 150 countries from Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN). It will mimick Hotels.com's highly successful book-10-hotels-get-a-tenth-stay-free loyalty rewards concept.
The start-up, which has 35 full-time employees, is a graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator program and has received about $5 million in funding. In April it added ordinary flight booking.
It doesn't reveal key metrics, but says that out of millions of searches per month, its conversion rate is higher than it projected and than what its airline partners had asked of it as metrics for success. The company cryptically says "hundreds of thousands of travelers" have "chosen" it for "search and booking experiences."
We spoke with CEO Alek Vernitsky about the changes.
Why is your hotel booking service better than any of the countless established players on the market?
It's because of the little user experience differences.
We integrated the historical weather for your dates of travel, to spare users from having to click over to Weather.com. The forecast is right there at the top of the search results.
We have smarter Facebook relevance. We provide two metrics: How many of your Facebook friends live there and how many of your Facebook friends have been there. While some other sites tell you if your friends have been to a place, travelers often want to know whom they might be able to visit while they're in town.
We have a smarter map-based search. The default is that when you look at one of our maps, you see all of the hotels in a neighborhood. But if you use our filters to search by TripAdvisor reviews that have an average, say, four-star rating, you can see pink pindrops for all hotels rated four star and the other pindrops for hotels are light pink. Completely grey means no availability for your dates of stay.
Our search is just a little bit better. When searching for a destination, you can search by city name or neighborhood but you can also search as granularly as by landmark.
Other sites include landmarks, but they retrieve indiscriminate ones. While everyone knows Coit Tower in San Francisco, people don't care if something's near, say, some random statue in a park, because they haven't heard of it. So we filter relevant location results from the data feeds we pull from Expedia's API and the Google Places API and soon cross-referencing the Yelp API.
GetGoing also stands out for wanting to own the customer relationship, and handling the customer service in-house here in San Francisco. Our model is to surprise and delight users with a high level of customer service, as a competitive advantage.
What's next for the company?
This autumn, we'll have an exciting product announcement related to vacation packages. It'll be different than "pick two, get one."
How are you getting the word out?
We have an "invite your friend" program for flights. Not yet for hotels. For every friend who books a flight, we give the referrer a $50 travel credit. That's helped a lot.
Have you partnered with other Y Combinator companies?
We're having discussions on integrating on the flights side with Vayable, which offers a fresh take on tours and activities, and with Peek, which has its own clever spin on tours and activities.
Anything new on flights?
We want to make flights truly global. Currently, you need a US credit card to book flights, and we don't offer itineraries between non-US destinations. We'll fix those things soon.
We are building a loyalty program for flights.
Why roll out hotels?
About half of the hundreds of customers who have provided feedback to us have requested we add hotel booking. We already had flight booking and our vacation package offering.... And, yes, commissions are higher on hotels.
What future tweaks would you like to add?
We think we may add "what's around your hotel," pulling attractions information from the Google Places API.
We'd also like to port over TripAdvisor's TripFriends feature, so if a user's Facebook friends have visited a hotel those reviews will rise to the top.
Right now, we only display the latest TripAdvisor reviews from generic users. But that's still an improvement on what most hotel booking sites do, which is not let you see the full TripAdvisor reviews on their own site.
Here's a promo from the company's vice president of communications, Robb Henshaw: