With TripAdvisor represented as the goliath of the social travel industry, the battle of the online travel sites is finding itself delving into more and more creative grounds. One such participant is www.ResortsAndLodges.com; not an OTA per se, but rather a website that colorfully displays hotel listings then allows for reservations directly through a property’s website or over the phone. With over 60 million individuals using the site to plan their vacations, it’s estimated from usage and click-through statistics that they’ve rendered nearly $1 billion in bookings across North American, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Of particular interest to me is that ResortsAndLodges.com has just released its first major update for 2012 with several interesting features that could set it apart. Founded in 1998 as one of the first online leisure travel directories, the company is no stranger to the online hotel business. In the past, they’ve focused on delivering a robust and easy to use consumer shopping experience. But now, what they are finding is a remarkable shift from a mere travel research and planning site to a social travel center.
When it comes to destination holiday websites, people want to be inspired by a website, but they also want to share their inspiration. Taking a page off of Facebook’s ‘like’ button, ResortsAndLodges.com has added ‘been here’ and ‘want to go’ buttons to expand upon this sharing mentality. In this sense, the website is creating a new aspect to the social travel space – no longer just about how many reviews and recommendations, but about who is recommending.
All of their subsequent additions have revolved around the concept of improving the online shopping experience by enhancing social connections. Some of these include location-based navigation, badges, restaurant and attraction listings, new recommendation engines, dedicated forums, trip planners, social media feeds and personal travel guides.
Ryan Bailey, the President and Co-Founder, explains that these developments are part of an ambitious strategy that started late last year. The plan is to systematically release hundreds of individual patch updates to the travel site over the next couple years, constantly seeking new ways to enrich the consumer experience.
As always, Ryan believes that the central tenet to this is his team and their ability to swiftly move site updates from inception to execution in order to keep ResortsAndLodges.com on the cutting edge of the OTA marketplace. He’s excited about the recent changes and the prospect of gaining market share from some of the larger, slower competitors.
So, is it the perfect travel site? Check it out and decide how you feel. What would you add? Are you pleased with how it displays and describes its offerings of hotels and resorts?
(Published in eHotelier on July 11, 2012)