By Harry McCracken | Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 10:46 am
When I’m on the road and enter my hotel room for the first time, I turn on the light, survey my surroundings to mentally rate the quality of the accommodations for the price I paid, and then open the curtains so I can judge the view. So, I’ll bet, do you. But it always feels like a crapshoot–by the time I know much about the room, I’m in it and have agreed to pay for it.
Room 77–which was the first company to demo today at the Launch conference here in San Francisco–has a (potentially) better idea: It’s collecting and sharing information about individual rooms in specific hotels. It knows the features rooms have; it knows whether they’re corner rooms and how large they are; it uses Google Earth to generate simulated views as you’ll see them from specific rooms. If a particular hotel is in its database, you can judge its rooms from the comfort of home (or anywhere else–there’s an iPhone app).
I love the concept, but it does leave me with a bunch of questions. Will the site be able to map out all the hotels in every location that travelers care about? (Right now, it’s covering 16 cities and has 425,000 rooms, or a bit less than three times the quantity of rooms in Las Vegas alone; it’s also concentrating on better-class hotels.) Will hotels cooperate or complain? (The company says it’s collecting data on its own, but that some hotel chains are helping.) Even if I know that a particular room is a delight–or a dog–will I be able to do anything with that information? (You can’t specify the room when you book, and I wonder what would happen if you showed up at the front desk of a Wyndham for check-in and demanded room 1792.)
For Room 77 to change the world, it would have to…well, change the world. Or at least the way we deal with hotel companies. Maybe the day will come when we can pick rooms the way we do when we pay for a seat in an airplane or a theater. We might end up paying more for the very best rooms than we do now; then again, we might pay less for unexpectedly tiny rooms that overlook rusty ventilation systems.
If it does, Room 77 would be awfully handy. And if it catches on, it might help nudge the hotel business in that direction.