Before he co-founded last-minute, hotel-booking startup HotelTonight, one of CEO Sam Shank’s previous companies was the hotel review site TravelPost. And today, he’s launching what he said is a reinvention of the hotel review, optimized for mobile phones.
“What makes mobile different is mobile’s with you all the time,” Shank said. “With hotel reviews, you’re sort of summarizing your stay. It’s text-oriented. But on mobile, the primary input device is the camera. It’s more photo-based.”
The new feature is called Snap Your Stay, and it asks HotelTonight users to take six different photos during their stay — one each of the bed, bathroom, view, lobby and exterior, plus a “cool find” of their choice. You can adjust the lighting in a photo, and there are new filters.
The photos can be shared on Facebook or Twitter, and they’ll also show up on a hotel’s profile page in the app, sorted by things like the type of image (so that you don’t end up with six pictures in a row of beds) and whether other users liked the photo. And the app will also start featuring a page with recent popular photos.
Shank argued that Share Your Stay allows users to capture their experience during their stay (as opposed to trying to remember it afterwards), and to do it in a quick, convenient fashion — he noted that you can take and upload all six photos with just 20 taps, whereas writing a review would take “thousands.” (Put another way: Typing out an in-depth review on your phone would be a pain.)
Now you might be thinking, “Hold on, that doesn’t really sound like a review. How do I explain that the staff was mean? Or that there were a lot of weird noises at night?” For now, at least, you can’t. HotelTonight already asks users whether they would recommend the hotel — Shank described that as a quality-control mechanism (a few hotels have been removed from the app for low ratings) and a way to make users feel more comfortable about their bookings. Meanwhile, he described Share Your Stay as a way to capture the experience, which will help other HotelTonight users decide whether a hotel is right for them.
When I asked whether he’d consider adding a text review feature in the future, Shank answered that the team was trying to make things as simple as possible to start, and that HotelTonight will enhance Share Your Stay based on what users want.
As for what you get for taking those photos, Shank said that HotelTonight is currently offering a $5 credit for completed photo set. He added, “What I’ve learned with reviews in general is, the reason people give reviews is to give back to the community.”
The Snap Your Stay feature is available today in HotelTonight’s iPhone/iPod Touch app. The company plans to introduce it to the iPad and Android apps, too.
HotelTonight is also announcing something called the “HT Price Guarantee.” If you can find a lower price for the same room on the same night on another site, then HotelTonight says it will make up the difference in credits.