Like airlines, hotels book more reservations than they can accommodate to ensure they are always operating at maximum capacity. But sometimes they overbook and have to “walk” their customers — transfer them to another hotel.
When Brett Leonard was working at a hotel in San Francisco, he often spent hours trying to find other hotels to walk customers to. He said they would become disgruntled and angry when it would take him hours to find them alternative hotels, sometimes as far away as Napa and Walnut Creek.
“This happens all the time,” Leonard’s partner Vladimir Blumen said. “When you run a really large hotel, it’s part of running this business.”
Part of the latest Y Combinator batch, WalkSource is a system hotels can purchase a subscription to in order to help them find available rooms in nearby hotels to quickly transfer customers to when they find themselves overbooked. Blumen said airlines already have this system, but no network existed for hotels.
Since the company launched its beta version to Bay Area hotels earlier this year, it has been used in more than 200 hotels. The founders say the average “walk” only takes about ten minutes using this system.
I personally have never been walked, but I could see how it could be a frustrating experience, especially if it occurs at a hotel you were looking forward to visiting or you are transferred far from your original destination. My main reservation with a service like WalkSource is that by making it easier for hotels to relocate customers, they might walk them more frequently.
But by cutting down the time it takes and allowing hotels to alert customers that they’re being walked, this product could greatly benefit consumers. When a hotel “walks” you, your stay is typically comped. If travelers are able to get a free room and hotels are able to quickly accommodate the change and find a nearby location to transfer the guest, travelers could save some money and headaches.
Currently hotels subscribe to the WalkSource system by paying a $200 per month subscription fee. Once WalkSource grows more in the Bay area, the founders plan to expand it to New York City, Chicago, Orlando and Portland, all areas with high hotel densities.
Blumen says no other company is addressing the walking problem. Although other apps and software provide a place for hotels to post available rooms when they have cancelations, WalkSource is the first to address overbooked hotels.
As a Y Combinator member, WalkSource will be participating in the accelerator’s Demo Day next week.