Hospitality Majors Give Birth to New Hotel Search Engine

  • FOX Business

     (FOX Business)

Imagine competitors actually working together, creating something in hopes of bolstering the industry as a whole. A partnership between six major hotel companies is trying to do just that.

Choice Hotels International (NYSE:CHH), Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H), InterContinental Hotels (NYSE:IHG), Marriott International (NYSE:MAR) and Wyndham Hotel (NYSE:WYN) have teamed up to create a first-of-its-kind hotel search engine.

In a joint statement, the hoteliers said the web site provides travelers a search and book experience that is tailored for the “ease of hotel shopping.”, in their words, provides the “simplicity, transparency and breadth of choice consumers expect from a search engine, while delivering the flexibility, accuracy and assurance consumers expect from the hospitality industry.”

The joint venture will be led by online commerce and hospitality veteran John Davis III, most recently chief executive of BirchStreet, who helped launch the Internet’s first hotel online booking service in 1996 and earlier co-founded 1-800 Flowers (NASDAQ:FLWS).

Davis will be assisted by Stephany Verstraete as chief marketing officer, who formerly served in leadership positions at Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), and J. Kurt Zimmer as chief technology officer, who most recently served as head of enterprise architecture at TIAA-CREF.

Room Key acquired its technology platform from hotelicopter in a deal that closed last year. The platform is expected to drive more direct bookings to hotels.

“With an experienced management team in place and a compelling search tool unique to the market today, Room Key … will quickly become a large scale marketplace offering highly qualified hotel booking leads to our owners and franchisees,” Hyatt’s global head of marketing and brand strategy, John Wallis, said in a statement.

The new search engine comes as travel is expected to make a rebound after falling off somewhat over the last few years of market uncertainty, and as the industry continues to become more reliant on mobile devices and the Internet to boost sales.

IHG said late last month that technological devices such as the Kindle Fire tablet, Google TV and Android have contributed to a jump of more than $130 million in annual revenue, up from $2.5 million in 2009.

In its quarterly travel forecast, the Global Business Travel Association predicted this week that overall business spending on travel will grow 4.6% in 2012, with the number of total U.S. initiative international business trips expected to climb 2.4%.

Follow Jennifer Booton on Twitter at @Jbooton