Oyster.com, the website that dispatches journalists to write hotel reviews, is trying to position itself as a reliable, objective resource for travel agents.
"With more than 600 hotels reviewed and 200,000 pictures at their fingertips, travel agents benefit from a website that doesn't build business relationships with the hotels it reviews -- offering an impartial, journalistic breath of fresh air to the Internet-savvy agent," states Oyster in a press release today.
The website, which launched in 2009, woos travel agencies today, and also takes a slap at online travel agencies and Fodor's.
"While Expedia, Orbitz and similar travel sites are good marketing and sales platforms for hotels, they're unreliable resources for travel agents," Oyster.com states. "In contrast, Oyster's expert reviewers stay at each hotel anonymously, thoroughly evaluate and verify all of its features, and take hundreds of photos of everything from the stains on the carpet to the parties at the pool. The reviews on the site are even more reliable than popular travel guides like Fodor's, who often leverage their status to book for free, giving hotels the opportunity to prepare for the visit."
Specifically, Oyster states that one of its advantages for travel agents is that they can use its filters to sort search-results based on price, location and amenities -- more than 50 features.
"In addition, Oyster.com offers GPS-coded data on all its hotels, including those in the Caribbean that don't have street addresses," the company says. "Using the GPS data, agents can see exactly where a hotel is located on a map, how far it is from the airport, golf courses, beaches, local attractions, or any other points of interest."
There is one thing Oyster doesn't mention in today's press release.
Within the next couple of weeks, it plans on adding a hotel-booking component to its website and it will likely do so through a third-party inventory aggregator.
So that triggers the obvious question: When Oyster gets into the hotel-booking game -- and it begins to compete against the travel agents it is reaching out to -- will Oyster's new relationship with hotels impact the objectivity of its professional reviews?
Let's hope not.