The success ofEurocheapo, a hotel review website, isn't exactly the world's greatest mystery. But it certainly raises an eyebrow, because modest Internet companies aiming to please budget-conscious travelers rarely make a buck, as EuroCheapo does. Founded six years ago, the website now earns enough to afford to have three full-time workers and a handful of freelance hotel reviewers in Europe.
The company's success, while modest, seems to be due to its focus on the post-backpacker crowd, meaning travelers who are too grown-up to stay at hostels but who don't travel with children and who don't insist on luxury lodgings. Most of the hotels it reviews are relatively cheap--say, in the $83 to $193 per night range for hotels in Rome's central Campo dei Fiori neighborhood in high season.
EuroCheapo pays freelance writers to visit and review hundreds of hotels. The best hotels in its reviewers' eyes are featured online. "We spotlight hotels that give you an authentic sense of the city you're in," says Tom Meyers, EuroCheapo's founder. "If I'm sitting in the room of a hotel in Berlin, I want the decor to say to me, 'Hey, You're in Berlin'. I don't want it to have that bland feeling of an international chain hotel."
A few weeks ago, EuroCheapo added "hotel meta-search" to its website. Now you can see its hotel reviews alongside listings for hotels it hasn't reviewed. Many, though not all, of each group of hotels can be booked online via partner hotel-booking engines, such as Venere and Booking.com. Similar to a TripAdvisor model, you can see expert reviews (highlighted as "Editor's Picks") side-by-side with hotels that have only been reviewed by anonymous customers at hotel booking sites such as Venere.
This move to mingle hotels that have been vetted by reviewers following consistent standards alongside reviews of hotels anonymous customers is an interesting development. Other travel websites will be eyeing EuroCheapo's move and mimicking it if it's successful.
Tomorrow: The funny and surprising story of how college student Tom Meyers raised the cash to create a successful Internet travel business.
[Correction: My original posting misspelled Campo de' Fiori. I regret the error.]