A new startup is taking the sharing economy to new extremes.
Winston Club, a members-only travel website set to launch in early 2016, will offer travelers the opportunity to book a room in Seattle, Las Vegas, Portland, San Francisco or Los Angeles for half the market price.
There’s just one catch: You will have to share the room with someone you’ve probably never met. The booking site will connect strangers looking to share the cost --and space--of a traditional hotel room.
Winston Club founder Byron Shannon says he came up with the idea after having difficulty finding a cheap place to stay that he could trust was safe and clean while traveling.
“We started Winston Club because we felt there should be an easy way for people to connect when they’d like a low-cost way to access the comfort and convenience of a hotel,” Shannon told Road Warrior Voices. “We wanted a safe, reliable, economical solution that provided a better experience than hostels or CouchSurfing alternatives.”
Unlike Airbnb or HomeAway, Winston Club only offers listings at “top hotels” so members don’t have to worry about dirty beds or a private residence not appearing as advertised.
Once a Winston Club member signs up and inputs his or her travel plans, the company will pair together people who have similar travel plans and also considers members’ “interests and background information.”
And when it comes to security, members must pre-approve pairings at which point the service will complete the reservation and payment process for them. The parties must submit five forms of verification: phone number and professional email at account setup, one verified social media account and credit card at booking, and one photo ID at check-in. And since they're staying at a traditional hotel, which offers more security, Shannon says that personal safety is less of a concern for members than other sharing economy lodging sites like Airbnb.
“Rather than staying with an anonymous stranger, you’re sharing a space with someone who has been screened and is accountable for their actions,” says Shannon.
He admits his company is unconventional, but reiterates that the company makes a solid effort to pair like-minded people together.
“Room-sharing isn’t for everyone – or all the time. We get it. We personally wouldn’t want to share a room with someone who we wouldn’t click with either,” he says, adding that the ultimate decision to accept or decline lies with the traveler.
A recent PWC survey found that that consumers familiar with the sharing economy were 34 percent more likely to trust a recognized hotel brand over Airbnb.
Winston Club is now accepting membership applications online and the service is expecting to launch early next year in the first four cities.