New commission-free hotel booking engine Treovi says it is on track for a planned August 6 public launch.
The site says it intends to build a new disruptive social media-based model in the sector to rival the online travel agencies which it claims many hotels are deeply unhappy with.
The totally free approach – with neither hoteliers nor consumers charged – has raised questions about how Treovi will make money.
But one of its founders, Michal Wrobel, told Travolution it had a number of optional additional services it will roll out once the site has become established.
Wrobel would not reveal details of these services but said it had “a lot of ideas” and that they would relate to “the product itself and optimisation of sales and inventory”.
“We have these services ready and are going to introduce them in the next 12 months but at first for some time we are not going to introduce those optional services – we are going to offer this 100% free for everyone,” he said.
Treovi is looking initially for two key signs of success; firstly that hotels are prepared to put their trust in it as an alternative channel – it has 1,000 properties signed up and is in talks with some large chains – and secondly that it is able to drive bookings to those hotels.
The model is similar to that announced by Global Hotel Exchange, a hotel booking site from Magnuson Hotels founder Thomas Magnuson that planned to effectively pass on the cost of distribution to the consumer by levying a $2.99 charge per booking.
Wrobel said the GHX model only works of hotels are getting a lot of exposure and bookings because the demands for price parity mean rival OTA sites are likely to be cheaper because they are not, in effect, displacing the cost of commission onto the consumer.
In addition Treovi feels the advent of direct sale portal Room Key, which is backed by the might of the Hilton, Wyndham, IHG Marriott, Hyatt and Choice hotel groups, has potentially changed the landscape and a charge to the consumer was no longer a viable option.
However, Wrobel said the Advantage Treovi has over Room Key is that it is not just a meta-search site but a reservations site with a proper OTA-style booking engine sitting behind it.
“If you want to make a difference you have to create disruption,” said Wrobel.
He said the old commission model as followed by all OTAs was just an old-fashioned offline model adapted to the online world.
“This is not what the internet is about, so the proper way to create disruption in the world of hotel online reservations is to offer everything for free with optional services they have to pay for,” said Wrobel.
Treovi will, in particular, seek to exploit the social graph better than any of its OTA rivals with full integration of Facebook and other networks.
Wrobel said Treovi plans to emulate the best practice in the emerging social travel space as epitomised by start-ups Airbnb and HouseTrip.
“We want to integrate the best in terms of social integration and in terms of hotel booking experience.
“That keeps people online longer and that creates something more than a simple booking experience where you just find the cheapest hotel.”
Wrobel insisted there were a large number of smaller hotel groups are fed up with the OTA system and the way they are treated by the agents they work with as well as associated entities like Tripadvisor.