Will Innovations in Hotel Booking Lead to Higher Prices?

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A lot of thought goes into hotel booking—you have travelers like us out there looking for the best deals, you have hoteliers who are trying to convince us they offer the best value, and you have the middlemen who are trying to make the process easier (and make a few bucks while they're at it).

I'm all for easier—and that's why my ears perk up every time an innovation in hotel booking comes along. One of the newest innovations, the ability to specify the exact room you will book, has me especially intrigued for two reasons—one, because I think it has the potential to improve the lives of travelers, and two, because I'm mindful of how it might affect hotel rates in the future.

We saw this coming back in March, shortly after Room77.com arrived on the scene. The website operates on the premise that not all rooms are created equal, so you might as well choose the best one, and they try to help you do this by sharing room reviews, views, and floor-plans.

They weren't the only ones experimenting with this idea—some hotels such as Hilton and Homewood Suites, were starting to let guests choose their own rooms too. (Though, in the case of Hilton, you have to be an HHonors rewards member to take advantage of the offering.)

As of midnight this past Wednesday, Room 77 is now giving people the opportunity to not only search specific hotel room reviews, but to specify the exact type of room they would like—and book it through their website.

Here's how it works: you search for hotels in a given city. You can narrow your results based on price, destination and desired amenities (jetted tubs, for example). When you go to book, all of the room details you've indicated are important to you are communicated to the hotel via a proprietary algorithm called RoomMatch. At least in theory, this means you'll get the perfect room for you.

This sounds pretty nifty, but what does it mean in the long run? First of all, I'm curious—do you care enough about your hotel room to be excited about an offering like this?

Second, if people get wise to the fact that one standard room is decidedly more desirable (bigger, better view) than another, might hotels eventually catch onto that as well and start charging more for those rooms, therefore making it even more difficult for cost-conscious travelers to snag a prime room at a discount?

I guess only time will tell. What do you think?


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