Treovi promises freedom from the tyranny of fees and some social surprises
If you want to create a bit of a buzz, don’t give everything away at once. It seems this is the strategy of Treovi, a new, slightly secretive, Swiss start-up which seems to have ambitious plans to free the hotel industry from the tyranny of online commissions and offer something “completely new” on the social front. Pamela Whitby attempts to get to the bottom of it
‘Freedom for guests and hoteliers’ and the ‘first truly 100% free reservation system’ proclaims the website which has simplicity at its heart. The core business model, says Treovi’s co-founder Michal Wrobel, is selling hotel rooms for free – no commission, no fee. Hotels, he argues, will benefit from greater profitability and guests will benefit from lower rates.
The site is now live for hotels to register and create a profile and come August 6th, guests will be able to start searching and booking.
This week EyeforTravel.com took a look at the site which is still in beta. For hotels, at least, the phrases ‘simple to look at’ and ‘straightforward to use’ come to mind. All you need to do is sign up, receive a confirmation and then start entering your hotel’s details. There are options to describe the hotel, give payment details, list hotel policies, add a website address, upload photographs and so on – all the usual stuff. Hotels can upload images of everything from the hotel building to hotel rooms, amenities, surroundings. According to Wrobel, right now picture tagging works for hotel rooms (it matches room descriptions with photographs) but tagging will also be possible for amenities.
Will Treovi work? Well for hotels the big thing is that the company operates on a no-commission, no-fee basis. So of course this is beneficial for hotels which are constantly looking at ways to drive greater profitability. “Most hotels today are eager to diversify and broaden their reach using the most cost effective means possible,” explains Ed Perry, global senior director of social media, OTA partnerships and innovation projects at WorldHotels.
Being free isn’t everything
So with hotels freed from the stranglehold of online commissions, what about consumers? Will they like the site simply because it is free? “If the consumer experience is exceptional, I believe consumers may not be averse to paying a small booking fee,” argues Perry, who says that consumers, after all, already pay a small fee for flight bookings on certain sites. “In the end, I think it comes down to which site emotionally motivates the consumer to hit the ‘book’ button.”
Treovi, it seems, has been designed with military precision and appears to be banking on consumers wanting simplicity above all else but is the site exceptional? Not yet. One thing that is missing right now is the ability to click on a hotel facility and have that link to an image. If a hotel lists ‘sun terrace’, ‘garden’, ‘sauna’ or ‘library’ in a drop-down list of facilities, then the consumer surely wants to be inspired by a good a quality photograph or even a video.
The website design is certainly simple – and is clearly designed with a mobile strategy in mind - but it is still a work in progress and we are not quite sure it is there yet.
Surprises on the horizon
Then there is the inevitable question: how will Treovi survive if everything is free. Well, of course, that won’t last forever although Wrobel is clear on one thing: additional paid for services or products will always be optional.
Still assuming the site reaches critical mass, there will always be opportunities to drive ancillary revenues for additional products and services such as clever marketing tools and, of course, advertisements on the site. “The product ‘room night’ can be sold in many different ways,” explains Wrobel.
Other developments underway relate to social media and reviews. Social media, says Wrobel, will be tightly integrated with the site. “We’ll use Facebook open graph functionality, both on the mobile app and the web,” he explains, adding that this feature will go live in the coming month. Cryptically, however, Wrobel says that “three other big social features” are currently being worked on but he can’t reveal any more than that. “All will use existing solutions or concepts but the way we apply them to a hotel reservations site will be a novelty,” he says. These will be unveiled in the next 12 months and “we want them to be surprises”.
When it comes to reviews, the firm is working on a “very specific system” which Wrobel argues will be unlike anything we have seen so far in terms of data aggregation, type of input, display and so on. But before Treovi gets going on this, it will need to gather data and have sufficient number hotels in the system.
In these trying times for the travel industry, a few surprises that truly add value to the hotel industry will be most welcome. We’re watching.