Don't believe Amazon's statements about its minimalist intentions in the hotel sphere. This is just the beginning. The next phase will be to really scale up the service with inventory partners.
Amazon pulled the trigger and has quietly launched its much-awaited new hotel product and brand, Amazon Destinations.
Skift broke the story in November that Amazon would launch a new hotel service and, as reported at the time, the revamped hotel product emphasizes weekend getaways within driving distance from major metropolitan areas and includes published rate hotels, and not merely the steep discounts that Amazon has been offering through Amazon Local for several years.
In that way, Amazon Local for travel transitions from primarily a hotel deals site into Amazon Destinations, which works with hoteliers directly and on an ongoing basis.
Amazon’s new homepage for travel — which is currently part of Amazon Local but could eventually reside elsewhere — now features hotels in the Pacific Northwest, Southern California and the Northeast.
It is available on desktop and in Amazon’s mobile apps.
Road Trips, Not Flights
The tag line for Amazon Destinations is: “Hit the road: Book local getaways.”
Within each metro area there are featured destinations, including currently five in the Pacific Northwest, four in Southern California and eight in the Northeast.
For example, in the Northeast there are hotels in the Adirondacks, Vermont, the Poconos, the Catskills, the New Jersey Shore, the Hamptons, Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish Country and the Finger Lakes.
Hotels, such as Beach Plum Resort, Driftwood Resort on the Ocean and Montauk Manor, all in Montauk, New York, are free to offer both discounted and published rates, packages and special offers. There are recommendations for area restaurants and activities.
You won’t see any flight options as Amazon Destinations emphasizes drive destinations and weekend getaways.
Amazon Destinations is something short of TripAdvisor’s 200 million reviews and opinions at this point, but Amazon Destinations is beginning to collect user reviews for each property. The hotels will include independent properties, regional groups, chains, and B&Bs etc.
“We created Amazon Destinations to solve a problem most travelers face: how to easily plan and book a local getaway trip,” says spokesperson Tom Cook. “Interestingly, more than 40% of all U.S. domestic leisure trips are short-term getaways of 1-3 nights, and many of these trips are to nearby, drivable destinations.”
“However, travelers often have a hard time planning local getaways,” Cook says. “It’s difficult to know where to go, the process is labor-intensive, and people often miss out on finding great places to stay.”
Published Rates and A New Business Model
Amazon opted to expand beyond Amazon Local’s strict adherence to deeply discounted hotel rates in favor of published rates and a new business model with standard commissions because it wanted more flexibility to work with hotels on an ongoing basis — and not just when hotels need to fill some rooms at rock-bottom rates.
Each destination page includes “Our destinations near you” and “Places to stay near you.”
Portland’s destination page notes that the city is known for “food carts, craft beer, food carts and fine dining.” It shows average temperatures, the distance from Seattle, maps, and, of course, recommended places to stay in Portland and its environs.
The hotel landing pages look similar to the way they did previously in Amazon Local although they now have star ratings and customer reviews.
Here’s a screenshot for the homepage of the new Amazon Destinations brand.
Amazon Local Travel Deals have given way to Amazon Destinations. And here’s what the Amazon Local Deals page looked like previously.
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Photo credit: Amazon's new and expanded hotel service is called Amazon Destinations and it is currently available on desktop and mobile.