This is the second installment in a two part series about Hotel Tonight. In the first installment we spoke with co-founder and COO Jared Simon. In this installment we’ll also be speaking with VP International and Paris office head Amir Segall and French Market Manager Marie Hardel.
How is the Airbnb phenomenon affecting what you do?
The similarity in what they do and what we do is that we’re both catering to the next generation of travelers who are much more interested in experience, authenticity, and quality, as opposed to just price as the sole determinant of their lodging decision. That’s where the similarities probably end. We know Airbnb well, and I’d say we don’t consider each other as competitors. My view is that Airbnb is broadly more complementary to the (hotel) industry rather than destroying the industry. I think it’s expanding the use cases for booking lodging. The time a person wants to stay in an apartment is very different from the time you want to stay in a hotel. For us we Airbnb as a fantastic product for a particular use case and we’re a fantastic product for a different type of use case. Also, we focus on last minute, which is difficult to do with private accommodation.
Do you offer any curated content on Hotel Tonight to guide people to certain destinations?
We haven’t done a lot yet on guiding people to a particular destination, mainly because we want the app to remain simple. But what we have found is that customers do that on their own. One of the most gratifying things of running this company is that we hear from people all the time that use Hotel Tonight almost as if it’s a travel magazine. If they have some downtime, for example, they’ll browse the app, photos, etc and be inspired. That said, we will be launching some interesting features over the next year that will be inspirational and specifically so, so keep your eye out for that.
How many markets is Hotel Tonight in currently? Do you find it easy to bring new markets and cities on-board?
We originally launched in the US in 2011 in San Francisco, NYC and LA. We just launched our 30th country, Russia. We’re currently in 500 cities around the world. The next big focus is our launch in Australia. There will be more beyond that.
Some markets are very amenable to our model. Paris is a very competitive hotel market and they’re a lot of tourists, which makes it a strong market for us. Other cities, people might go for different reasons. But although each market has both advantages and challenges, such as cultural differences that make some countries click more quickly than others, we offer something for everyone which makes our model adaptable to different markets around the world.
I imagine there’s quite a few markets you’re looking to expand into. How do you decide where to launch?
We’re a travel company so when we look at a new market, we want to see that it’s interesting for the people in that market as well as those visiting it. We look to understand our users, look at things like where they go, what are they going to be looking for. Our ambition is to be anywhere that’s interesting for our users to go. But we also look at the state that new markets we’re considering expanding into and if they’ve reached a point where they’re ready for what we have to offer.
Paris is such a huge hotel market. What do you do to give a better experience to travelers here?
First of all, we are highly demanding in terms of the hotels we work with, especially for Paris as there are so many hotels. There are many great new up-and-coming boutique hotels and a lot of great hotels come to us, so we make sure we have these hotels in our portfolio. But it’s also a matter of how we present the hotels. We invest in using our own photographers to take pictures of the hotel and writing the hotel descriptions ourselves. In the hotel market, and particularly Paris, hotels are often oversold. So we really try to give a genuine image of the hotel, give the right information about the hotel, and really give people their money’s worth.
Paris is a city where Hotel Tonight is highly differentiated by virtue of the fact that you will only see a maximum of 15 hotels at any point in time. So you never need to go though a list of, for example, 1700 hotels to find the one you want. So what we try to build is a level of trust with customers that we’ve essentially done all that work for them. So if they see a hotel on Hotel Tonight, they can trust that it’s properly represented and a great value for the money. This gives people comfort to book where they might not otherwise have booked.