Skift Take

It's about time hotels gave guests the opportunity to choose a specific room at the time of booking. Now, comes the hard part: marketing this new feature to customers and making it work.

Earlier this year, we lamented the fact that although a few companies have attempted to allow or at least help guests choose a specific hotel room for their stays, the ability to do so was limited at best.

Now, however, that seems to no longer be the case.

On June 30, GLH Hotels, an owner-operator of 14 London hotels with brands that include Clermont, Amba Hotels, Guoman Hotels, Every Hotels, Thistle Hotels, and Thistle Express, debuted, letting guests do exactly that.

Unlike other efforts in this space including, Room 77 and Hilton Worldwide, GLH Hotels’ system actually lets guests book the exact room they want at the time of reservation, as early as 50 weeks out. By contrast Hilton’s Choose Your Own Room feature, is only enabled after the booking is made and just a day or two before the guest is scheduled to check into the hotel. Room 77 provides customers with incredibly rich content on individual rooms in a hotel, but doesn’t have the ability to let guests book an exact room through its platform.

With GLH Hotels, you can choose a room based on a specific need or interest, such as business, a view, family, budget, or a suite, or you can choose a room based on the hotel or location. Each specific room number is identified on its own page, as well as a “host” (similar to how Airbnb displays its hosts), amenities, map location, room layout, and floor plan. Guest reviews for that specific room are also displayed, as are photos, including at least one photo that shows you the view from the room’s windows.

The company began trials of the technology back in 2014, first having a method similar to Hilton’s where guests booked first and then had a choice later of which room they wanted to stay in. Eventually, it transformed into what it is today: a system that informs guests of what they can expect in a specific hotel room but that also lets them book that specific room and reserve it for a set of dates.

GLH Hotels Chief Marketing Officer Colin Roy said that the company piloted the technology with more than 6,000 guests over a period of over a year. In surveys conducted among those guests, Roy said, “Ninety-seven percent of people were saying they would use this service again. Ninety-seven percent were also saying they would recommend this to their friends to use.”


Anxiety and Airbnb

“The research that we saw was that the next level of anxiety in the journey, after checking in to the airport, was waiting until you’d check in to see what your room was like,” he said. “Everyone knows hotels have a lot of different rooms and some are better than others.”

That level of transparency, Roy noted, is what adds to the overall guest experience. “This helps us sell to people so they know what they are getting. They have seen exactly what they are booking before they arrive. Guest satisfaction goes up significantly and there are less room changes and less complaints because people know exactly what they are getting already.”

One source of inspiration for this feature came from Airbnb. “The things we are doing are not without our own referencing to Airbnb,” Roy said. “They stared with the choosing your room to book. They sell by the room; they started showing people the exact bed you are going to be sleeping in. They give you that link between the person running the room you will stay in, versus the 500 rooms you are going to stay in.”

Because GLH Hotels is fairly small — it has a little over 5,000 rooms spread out over 14 properties in central London — it’s much easier for GLH to implement this type of technology seamlessly. GLH also doesn’t have to worry about its hotels having different property management systems, which is a hurdle for any seller to overcome in putting together all of its information on rooms across different brands and properties.

“We are disrupting the big hotel companies. We know this is hard for big hotel companies to deliver,” Roy said. “Big hotel companies will resist this because it’s very difficult for them to deliver on the tech side, on the commoditization side; it’s also hard for them to deliver on the staff, or emotional side.”


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Photo credit: London-based GLH Hotels recently debuted, which lets you choose a specific hotel room at the time of booking, an industry first. GLH Hotels

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