Book From A BMW, Enter The Hotel Room With A Car Key

The key to the future of hotel booking might just lie in new technologies being developed by BMW. The car company is researching a process that will allow drivers to book a hotel room from their car’s navigation system, be directed to their hotel and then proceed straight to their rooms where they can then unlock their hotel room doors using a chip in their keys.

BMW has been working with electronic lock and safe company VinCard Elsafe and Micros property management systems to create the new mode of booking, which works thanks to near-field communications (NFC) – a set of short-range wireless technologies.

Here’s how it works: drivers will be prompted to enter their credit card information into their navigation systems one time (and one time only). BMW’s navigation system will then be able to use Google to detect nearby hotels, populating a list for the driver. The system will connect to the hotel reservation system thanks to Micros, a property management software, which enables guests to book and pay for the room from the car. At this point, drivers must confirm their identity by entering a personal identification number. A credit card clearing company handles the invoicing and the hotel is notified that the reservation is guaranteed. It sounds complicated, but the entire process will only take a few taps on a screen for drivers.

Then comes the really cool part: the hotel room assignment is then sent back to the car, where drivers can press a button on their navigation system that puts them on course to the hotel. Their car key, which is equipped with NFC, will then receive an access code to the guest room. Guests have no reason to check in at the desk; they can go straight to their room where VinCard Elsafe locks, which are NFC-enabled, will let them in with the swipe of a key.

There was some buzz about BMW’s research back in April, but a press release from VinCard Elsafe confirms that development is underway. For now, we can only speculate what this means for the future of hotel booking – even to those of us who don’t drive BMWs. When the new mode of booking is finally introduced, here’s to hoping drivers pull over to the side of the road to make their selections.

[Photo by drewgstephens, Flickr]

Better Search, Blazing Fast, Tested

fast car searchTravel search engines commonly claim to produce the lowest prices or best selection. Some say they have the most accurate reviews or are quick at what they do. When we received a press release from hotel-finder Room 77 claiming “blazing fast” results, we put them to the test.

On our 25.5 Mbps DSL line, it took just 3.5 seconds for Room 77 to deliver 573 results for an overnight stay in a hotel in Miami later this month. That did seem fast so we compared it to a couple other hotel-finding sites. Hotels.com brought 437 in 3.6 seconds and Kayak returned 354 in 3.8 seconds – about the same speed-wise. But in addition to more results, Room77 delivered lower prices and included hostels in the search.

“Room 77 searches other sites for you and compares the prices right in the search results,” Kevin Fliess, Room 77′s general manager and VP of product development told Gadling. He added, “In addition to a fast and comprehensive search, we also allow travelers to earn loyalty points or pay at the hotel.”

Going a step further, Room 77 has their Room Concierge, a free service when booking a 4-star or above hotel that helps travelers identify a hotel room matching their preferences. Buyers specify what type of room attribute is most important – size, noise level or view – and Room Concierge staff goes to work finding just that room for buyers.

On Room 77 and other travel-related sites, it’s all about providing detailed, intuitive results that match what buyers want: a search process that is quick and easy.

Another site that delivers rich content fast in a very “we’re not wasting your time” sort of way is a new feature from Nerd Wallet that searches and compares airline fees.

Nerd Wallet, best known for finding and comparing credit card offers, says they “scour the financial universe to bring you any and every bank and credit union we can find, along with our own unbiased take on what various rewards programs or deposit accounts are actually worth,” on their website.

Now, Nerd Wallet’s Search and Compare Airline Fee finder, gathers information for pretty much all domestic airlines quickly and efficiently. Users can compare, say, the baggage fees of all airlines or find out all the details about one airline in a speedy and easy search.

The results at Nerd Wallet also are intuitive and consistent with predictions made earlier this year; new technologies may create changes for our future travel planning methods.

“Today, we stand at the forefront of a technological evolution in travel that we refer to as Online Travel 3.0, which recognizes the power shift from suppliers to retailers and to end consumers,” Stephane Durand, Director, Online & Leisure at Amadeus, a major provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry told Gadling earlier this year.

That was just back in February when Gadling covered how travel search was becoming more personal, focused and nosy.

Then, we told of a global study that identified the online shopping behavior and future motivations of trend-setting travelers: micro-targeting information to specific consumers offering products that are actually relevant for the buyer.

Today, sites like Room 77 and Nerd Wallet’s Airline Fee Finder are delivering on that promise.

Up next, look for sites that learn from our online behavior over time and become interconnected, sharing information about us among each other.

Broadway Hotel and Hostel in New York

[Flickr photo via Viernest]

Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

hotel deals guestmob collectionsThe Internet has brought us many ways to research and book hotels at prices much lower than the hotels’ published rate. Aggregate sites like Kayak and Orbitz give you the best available rate (BAR) without pre-payment on a specific hotel, while “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for a room below BAR but the actual property remains hidden until after you book and the purchase is non-refundable. Now a new booking site offers you hotel deals well below BAR while ensuring consumers flexibility and a standard of quality.

Guestmob differs from other hotel booking sites by combining high-tech algorithmic pricing and expertly curated properties hand-picked for their high user ratings. The site works by grouping hotels into collections of four to eight properties in a given category and neighborhood. You enter your travel dates and can immediately see a room rate of up to 50% below BAR for each hotel collection. The Thursday before you check in, the exact hotel is revealed but you are guaranteed one of the specific hotels in the collection. Best of all, unlike other opaque booking sites, you can cancel your reservation up to three days before check-in.hotel deals guestmob booking pagePreviously, some savvy travelers have tried to “game the system” with sites like Bidding for Travel, a forum that tries to guess winning bids and participating hotels on opaque sites by sharing successful bookings. Guestmob removes the need for this research by specifying hotels in each collection and immediately offering a deeply discounted price. While room upgrades, frequent guest points and other requests are still at the discretion of the hotel upon check-in, it’s still a great option for travelers with flexibility.

A Guestmob search for a hotel in Chicago on a weekend in mid-May yielded a price of $164 for a 3.5 star hotel on Magnificent Mile (such as a Courtyard or Embassy Suites), or $203 to bump up to a 4 star in the same area such as a W or Westin Hotel. The same properties ranged from $221 to $279 on other sites. Most Guestmob hotels are part of well-known chains such as Marriott or Starwood, or smaller chains like Kimpton and JDV.

Guestmob soft-launched last year in San Francisco and has now expanded to include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix. The site is well connected to social media so you can get help, learn news or give feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also chat with them right on the site if you have questions.

Five Tips for Successful Last-Minute Hotel Booking

One of the best things about a road trip are the last-minute detours, whether that’s stumbling across an antique car club meeting in Western Massachusetts or deciding to speed to Boston to see a million people cheer for a hockey team. Even along my planned route, I don’t even have a place to stay for the night when I pull into a city, hotel or otherwise. Sound crazy? With new internet tools and some winning strategies, a last-minute hotel stay is not only possible-it can be an unexpected money saver.

Here are my five tips to successfully booking at the last minute, to keep your plans flexible and keep your travel budget in check.

Load your smartphone: Web-booking tools are great for last-minute shopping, but you can never be sure you’ll find wifi when you crack open your laptop. Instead, download booking apps that are always on. I’ve been using Hotels.com for its broad selection of properties and its buy 10 nights, get one free loyalty program, but others are available. HotelTonight is an interesting option that announces deep discounts on three hotels per city per night. In only a few cities so far, it’s one to watch.

Shop smart: Local boutiques and quirky properties are fantastic, but when I’m booking at the last minute, I prefer to shop by chain. Brands like La Quinta and Quality Inn may be inexpensive, but they have a consistency guaranteed by the flag flown out front, meaning I’m sure I’ll find free internet, free parking and free breakfast when I arrive. You can’t always say the same for one-off hotels that may otherwise be perfectly nice.

Look for deals: Because a hotel can’t sell a room for yesterday, they’ll often offer a discount if they still have a vacancy for the evening. On Hotels.com, I’ve seen offers of 15, 20 and even 25 percent for the night-of. Don’t be shy about taking advantage of the hotel’s predicament! Hard bargainers can even try calling the hotel directly to negotiate, but remember that properties still have bills to pay and have a limit to how low they’ll go.

Check the reviews: Of course a booking site or app will tell you a property is a winner: They’re selling you the room. Even at the last minute, I like to pull up a few second opinions. Hotel reviews are Tripadvisor’s bread and butter, but other sites, like Yelp, have marginally more intelligent comments. Google’s “place pages” for hotels-the info that pops up on your smartphone when you search for a specific property-aggregate web commentary, making for easy comparison shopping. One thing to remember: photos, unlike anonymous commenters, usually tell the truth. I didn’t book the Holiday Inn Express in Cleveland, pictured above, until I’d seen some convincing photos.

Be patient: Even with from-your-phone booking, it can take time for a reservation to arrive at a hotel. In Providence, Rhode Island, I walked into the Biltmore hotel just five minutes after booking a room. When I learned my reservation had yet to appear, I said “No problem” and got some work done in the lobby. A few minutes later, my room was ready-and a front desk employee had upgraded me to a suite for understanding. All the more reason to keep booking last-minute.

CheckYourRoom.com launches hotel personality quiz

hotel booking

You’re probably used to booking a hotel room based on price, distance from the city center or local landmarks. You likely look at room size, what amenities are offered and whether or not there are any upgrades or promotions available. But, what if you could take that booking process one step further and add a bit of “you” into your hotel search? That’s the latest premise behind CheckYourRoom.com’s new booking tool, “What Room Are You?”

CheckYourRoom.com, a Paris-based travel startup that launched in beta earlier this year, wants to give travelers the opportunity to book a specific luxury or boutique hotel room with all the essentials like price and location, but throw ina little human touch, too. The recently launched quiz “What Room Are You?” on the booking site takes travelers through a series of lifestyle-related questions, then recommends hotels around the world based on their preferences.

Intrigued, I got a sneak peak of the new quiz and took the personality test for a spin.
hotel bookingThe first question asks about food preference. I chose “Italian Classics” and moved along to question number two, which asked about my fashion style. I was able to quickly rule out options (a) and (c) (Preppy Classics and Bohemian Chic), and for the sake of this quiz went with “Ultimate Fashionista”, just to see where it would take me (and because some days I think I’m quite fashionable). The next series of questions asked me choose my favorite artist and then my favorite hero, from a list of four people. I was asked like I do on a Friday night (go out for drinks), what type of music I listen to (pop/rock) and what dream car I would drive (a Bentley).

After answering all seven questions, I was returned a list of nine hotels from London to Nice that fit my profile, but more importantly, stayed within my budget range.

hotel bookingTaking the quiz doesn’t allow you to enter in specific information like destination or distance from tourist attractions, however, the site does offer a basic booking engine where you can add in your requirements. There’s also the Room Concierge, a personalized room recommendation service that collects your individual hotel and room requests and returns results based on your information.

The “What Room Are You?” personality test is by no means a scientific way of determining what hotel you’re best suited for, but for those travelers who aren’t married to fixed price or destination, it’s a nice way to introduce new places to an upcoming trip.

As for me? I learned that while my luxury travel preferences haven’t changed much over the years, my personality test revealed I was the “romantic” type (the site will tag as one of four personalities: romantic, adventurous, classic or modern). As a “romantic” type, I like my hotel rooms to “feel cozy and warm – like a home away from home.” Not a bad assessment, especially since the majority of the hotels the site recommended to me were in Paris.

While this might not be the end-all for travel search engines, it’s a nice change of pace from the booking engines of price, location, and date.

Readers: What do you think? Would you book a room based on a personality quiz?