Hotel operators have long battled with online travel agencies, but the OTAs appear to have won the struggle against one hotel-backed competitor.
Roomkey.com is no longer providing hotel search functions, the company announced Monday. But the operational suspension may not equate to a swan song for the hotel booking search engine. Roomkey is “in the process of redefining our business operations,” according to a press release.
Roomkey — a joint venture among Choice Hotels, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham — launched in January 2012 as “an innovative new online hotel search engine that will provide the simplicity, transparency and breadth of choice consumers expect from a search engine” while also booking directly from the hotel companies instead of a third-party site like Priceline.
“The board felt the resources at the company could be used utilized on other strategic opportunities,” Roomkey.com CEO Steve Sickel said in an interview with Skift Monday afternoon. “Given the current uncertain economic environment that’s going on right now, they felt that would be the best decision for the company.”
Roomkey’s suspended search function shouldn’t be read as a sign hotel companies can’t compete against OTAs, Sickel said. He also defended the criticized pop-under business strategy.
“It leveraged an asset — that was a visit that doesn’t turn into a booking — that every brand owner has millions of. It leverages that asset to see if it can monetize into a booking,” he said. “I think that strategy is quite solid.”
The six founding hotel company members behind Roomkey will remain with the company, Sickel added. All six deferred Skift’s request for comment to Sickel.
“I continue to work with the board, and so we’ll see what the board decides to do with this company and whether I’m part of that or not,” he added.
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