Bidding on Boutique Hotels: Interview with Stayful’s Cheryl Rosner

The Standard High Line

Boutique hotels are a the hottest trend in hospitality, with the growing demand of  leisure and business travellers looking for unique experiences that include their hotel, not just their activities in the area. Booking with these popular, specialized and often low compacity hotels will most likely include a premium price tag attached. What if there was a hotel booking website like Priceline, but skips the boring Hiltons and Hyatts for somewhere memorable like ACE Hotel or The Standard? And now with the newly launched Stayful.com, this is a reality. To share what’s guaranteed to be a big player in the boutique and luxury hotel niche, is Cheryl Rosner, their CEO and one of their co-founders:

Luxury Branded: What is Stayful all about, and what is your role in it?

Cheryl Rosner: I’m the CEO and co-founder of Stayful, along with co-founder Shariq Minhas. Stayful is about filling a need for both travelers and independent boutique hotels. For the first time ever, we’ve made it possible for consumers to search all boutique hotels in just one place. They have the opportunity to find a more unique travel experience at a one-of-a-kind hotel, and also the chance to bid for a great price that they’re satisfied with. In turn, hotels that might otherwise have empty rooms can now offer new guests savings on their stays that they couldn’t find anywhere else.

Hotel on Rivington Bar

LB: What made you decide to create Stayful? Is the travel industry lacking this kind of travel shopping experience for boutique hotels?

CR: Yes, it definitely has been lacking this ability to both find and get great savings at boutique hotels. I think my background on both the hotel and booking side of the equation helped me get thinking about it—and I was also wishing there was some sort of service like this that I could use myself!

Consumers have shared with us through surveys and conversations that business and leisure travelers alike have been looking for a more unique experience. Stayful not only lets them discover all these boutique hotels on just one site, rather than having to scour the Internet, but it also gives them a great price.

LB: I know you’ve had immense success with beta signups. How did that go in terms of user activity?

CR: Our initial beta users have loved the service so far—we get some really heartfelt and encouraging emails saying how much better and easier the hotel search has gotten for them. So far, our customers have seen an average of 27% savings and as high as 42% savings compared to the lowest available online rates. And we have seen a minimum of 10% off across the board.

Hotel on Rivington Room

LB: You’ve been called the Priceline of boutique hotels. Can you fill our readers in on your bidding system?

CR: Customers have two options for booking through Stayful: they can either send the hotel a bid or “Book Now.” Bidding can get you deals on boutique hotels from 10% to over 40% off. The Stayful-recommended bid is derived from our algorithm and is a price that the hotel is likely to accept. If the hotel is already in the Stayful network, you’ll find out instantly whether your bid is accepted, or if the hotel is going to make a counteroffer.

Hotels not in our network can still receive bids, and they’ll respond within 24 hours.“Book Now” means travelers can make a reservation right away by choosing the lowest online rate that we list for them, which we’ve identified by gathering data from all other booking sites that list that hotel—this is so customers only have to look at one site for this information.

LB: What has the response been from the boutique hotels with the service thus far?

CR: It’s making a difference in their businesses. On an average night, independent and boutique hotels can have 40% of their rooms go empty. Not only does Stayful help them fill those rooms, but it also helps them connect with a whole community of travelers that appreciates a more unique, personalized experience and is specifically looking for boutique hotels.

Gansevoort Park Avenue Pool

LB: I see that you’ve got a strong team behind you. Can you share some key players and their roles?

CR: Before co-founding Stayful, Shariq Minhas was VP of engineering at FanIQ. He has also managed global software engineering, IT, data center and network operations, and data warehouse/analytics at Jigsaw.com, which sold to Salesforce for $175 million. Shariq also held engineering management positions at online travel sites Expedia.com and Hotwire.com.

Natalie Kimball, Stayful’s Head of Hotel Product & Engagement, comes from the online travel agency side. She’s worked at Travelscape (acquired by Expedia) and most recently was the director of west coast sales for TravelClick. She independently consults with hotels on their distribution strategies, and has also worked with Expedia and Orbitz.

Roberta Seiler, Stayful’s Head of Sales and Partnership Development, comes from a background in hospitality and luxury goods. Her expertise in sales and marketing helped define strategies for brands such as Vera Wang Fine Jewelry, Vogue and most recently as part of the founding team at Jetsetter (acquired by TripAdvisor).

Stayful’s advisors include Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and now Airbnb’s Chief of Global Hospitality; Drew Patterson, founder and CEO of Jetsetter, founding member of KAYAK, and now CEO of Room 77; and Rob Solomon, previous COO of Groupon.

Hotel Zetta Room

LB: We know you’re still a young brand, but what are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming features, promotions or partners you can reveal?

CR: We’re currently in six U.S. cities and planning to expand that to 10 by the end of the year. We’re also focused on expanding our network of hotels.

We’d like to thank Cheryl for taking part in this interview. If you’re interested in learning more about Stayful, you can visit their homepage at Stayful.com, follow their Twitter account at @stayfulhotels, like their Facebook page at facebook.com/stayful, give them a +1 on their Google+ page, follow their Pinterest profile, or even connect with them on LinkedIn. If you’d like a video tour of Stayful that explains how to use this promising new service, just watch the YouTube video below for the full scoop:

 

Ryan Clark
ryan@luxurybranded.com

Ryan Clark is celebrating 10 years consulting for luxury brands across the globe helping them reach UHNW individuals online and off. He specializes in luxury digital marketing, SEO, PR and luxury viral marketing. Connect with me to talk about your luxury marketing strategy and how our services can help you achieve more this year. I offer a luxury gaps audit to determine where you're falling flat and where I see you can improve in your marketing efforts.   To connect with him online you can follow on Twitter @LuxuryBranded, connect on LinkedIn Ryan R Clark and read his column on Luxe Getaways Magazine where he covers the world of luxury.

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