Room Key was supposed to be all about getting more hotel bookings for the major chains that founded the site, right?
But, in a move that may seem counterintuitive to some, Room Key has added about 70,000 hotels on a white-label basis from the Travelocity Partner Network.
That agreement complements the 30,000 hotels on the site from founders Choice Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Wyndham and Marriott, plus partner Best Western.
John Davis, Room Key CEO, says the company knew it had to augment the offerings from these brands to provide more choice and bring in more properties from outside the US.
One way Room Key is expanding its base of hotels is with previously announced agreements with Trust International, Sabre Hospitality and TravelClick, but these pacts have not been implemented yet.
The Travelocity agreement will fill the gap and the number of properties provided on a white label basis will be tweaked once the three CRS providers -- Trust, Sabre and TravelClick -- go live, Davis says.
Davis adds that Room Key made the business decision to add hotels "sooner rather than later because we need to satisfy the needs of consumers."
For example, before the Travelocity white label came in, Room Key was offering just 12 hotels in Las Vegas.
By the summer, Room Key's hotel lineup will include about 30,000 hotels from the founders and hotel partners such as Best Western and new ones being added, about 20,000 from the CRS providers and perhaps another 50,000 from the Travelocity Partner Network, Davis says.
The advantages of booking through the founders, hotel partners and CRS providers will be emphasized because their "Book at" buttons [you book on the hotel website] will show the respective brand logos.
And, the "Book it" buttons displayed from the hotels delivered through the Travelocity Partner Network won't include logos.
The various book buttons look like this:
Room Key advises consumers to "Look for the Logo" for lowest available rates, the ability to book without booking fees, to earn rewards points and "to relax in the room you request."
And, what does the reference, "relax in the room you request" mean?
Davis says once you make a reservation directly with the hotel, you can reply to hotel confirmation emails and request rooms, order a bottle of wine or make any other kind of request.
Citing the advantages of booking with the hotel rather than through an intermediary, Davis also points out the customer can pick up the phone and make special requests.
"It is the hospitality industry," Davis says.
And, beyond the logo displays, are Room Key hotel partners getting any other kinds of display preferences?
Davis utters an emphatic "no" to that question.
"You can't buy a premium placement whether you are a shareholder or not," Davis says.
Hotel listings on the site are sorted by distance from the city center, he explains.
And, when consumers initially visit one of the founders' sites -- independent of Room Key -- and don't book, Room Key may serve them pop-under ads displaying the seven Room Key properties closest to the one they researched -- and didn't book --on the hotel site, Davis says.
With Room Key's strategy coming into focus, is the plan to have shareholder hotels begin to limit the inventory they offer to online travel agency sites?
Davis says those types of issues are never discussed among the hoteliers because this would raise antitrust issues.