(Reuters) - Several major hotel chains have launched a new website in an effort to increase their online booking revenue and lower costs associated with third-party travel services.
This week, six hotel companies announced roomkey.com, a hotel search engine that routes consumers straight to participating hotel companies' websites to book rooms.
Equity partners, who stand to share in proceeds once the Room Key venture generates profits, are currently Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group and Wyndham Worldwide Corp.
Britain's InterContinental said it expects the website to boost its business in the United States.
John Davis III, chief executive of Room Key, said the site would help ease the complexity of finding hotel rooms for consumers while helping the hotel companies lower their distribution costs. He said the service was targeted to leisure and small-business travelers.
Davis told Reuters that fees the hotel companies pay to list on Room Key were cheaper than what they pay online travel services such as Expedia. He also said consumers would find the lowest rates on Room Key, and would have an easier time making changes to itineraries than when using online travel agencies.
"What Room Key is designed to do is to reach brand-neutral consumers and have them use this website rather than an online travel agency website like Expedia or Travelocity to plan and book hotel stays," said Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group and travel industry analyst.
"It's a challenge to the online travel agencies because the hotels feel the online travel agencies are too expensive and they'd like to find a way to better represent their product," Harteveldt added.
The analyst said the new site, if built out the right way, could offer consumers a convenient one-stop hotel shop. He said consumer reviews, pictures from hotel guests and the addition of other hotels would enhance it.
"If Room Key brings in other chains like Starwood and Accor and luxury brands like Four Seasons and good destination content and other things like that, it has a chance to really help consumers price-shop hotels," Harteveldt said.
Davis, the CEO, said Room Key was open to bringing in more partners, and noted Best Western International signed up to have its hotels listed on the site. He said Starwood Hotels and Resorts initially opted to take a wait-and-see stance on the venture.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta, editing by Matthew Lewis)