Leading Hotels Readying Room Selection Tool

Boston - Luxury hotel collection Leading Hotels of the World is working on a booking tool that would allow travelers to book specific rooms in each property, according to president and CEO Ted Teng. "In a lot of the big boxes, it doesn't matter whether you have room 518, 618 or 718, because they're the same quality, but in our hotels, each room is different," he said during a panel here last week at a Global Business Travel Association conference. "The airlines do it and cruises do it, so why can't hotels do it?"

Although a few hotel brands allow booking by rooms__Hilton's Homewood Suites, for example, for several years has had a such tool__most hotel companies have eschewed it because of operational reasons, Teng said. If a guest opts for late check-out, for example, an incoming guest who had picked that specific room would have to wait even if other rooms were available. That happens only a small percentage of the time at the 430 hotels represented by Leading Hotels, he said.

Leading Hotels is working on the tool as it prepares to launch a new website in November, Teng added.

The idea is to make hotel check-in a more personalized experience.. "Part of Starbucks' success is that a cup of coffee is made just for you," Teng said. "They ask you for your name and don't call order No. 32; they say Ted. People want to be recognized as individuals and don't want to be treated as a number."

Brad Gerstner, founder and CEO of technology investment firm Altimeter Capital Management, said he sees such options as the future of hotel check-in, in which travelers bypass the front desk, head directly for their preferred pre-selected rooms and access those rooms with credit cards. Hotels, meanwhile, might respond by changing their pricing structure to charge more for a room with a great view than a room of the same type that is next to an elevator and has an obstructed view.

One of Altimeter's investments is Room 77, which allows travelers to include room preferences in their bookings. "Room 77 believes that search is in its infancy and that consumers will be more empowered by transparency," Gerstner said, "and when you do this in a way that's better for the consumer, it's also good for the hotel."