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Reinventing hotel reservation experiences with apps

To help define travel for the next generation of adventurers, Porter & Sail combines discovery and reservation, it leans toward experiences on a full platform. The app is intended to be a one-stop-shop for finding and booking a property, organizing a stay, personalizing arrivals, interacting with the destination and discovering places for a traveller’s next vacation. “We’re looking to do all of this on a very transparent and frictionless platform,” Porter & Sail CEO and co-founder Caitlin Zaino von Pendant told PYMNTS in an interview.

The platform, von Pendant said, is based on feasibility. A New York-based user experiencing a cold winter, for example, might be looking to spend a few days somewhere warmer. While it is not possible to travel too far, this adventurer can book a trip to Miami, Nashville or Montreal. The platform invites consumers to be inspired by content, like the best trendy dive bars, and then makes it easier to find and book properties.

Porter & Sail aims to make booking a roughly three-step process, which begins with discovery through the content of the platform. The app offers hotel photo reports, with images and a short copy, to show the properties as the consumer would experience them. The idea is to simulate the experience of walking into a hall, seeing the amenities, and touring a room, which wouldn’t happen by just sharing the room size in square feet. “We really wanted to inspire before we closed a deal,” said von Pendant.

The booking experience

To make a reservation, users can press the “book now” button and enter their guest’s information, including arrival and departure dates as well as group size and currency. “It’s a… clean experience that pops up right from the bottom of the screen,” said von Pendant. At this time, customers can see the available rooms and swipe right to view different images, along with brief descriptions of room features.

Once the consumer chooses an available room, they enter their information, such as name, email address, and credit card. The process, from booking to confirmation, takes around three screens. Regarding the reservation process, von Pendant said “everything is instantaneous” and “connected to the main back-end systems for central reservations”. The company accepts credit card payments, but is considering adding Apple Pay in the future.

The mobile travel market

von Pendant sees his clientele as psychographic rather than demographic. She believes all consumers are digital, curious, engaged and excited about travel. And today, she believes consumers expect their point of contact or hotel experience to be mobile and instant. (And, of course, you don’t expect a hotel to be called to make a reservation anymore.) Porter & Sail’s platform, she noted, is designed for how people are now traveling.

With online travel agencies (OTAs), however, consumers have the experience of being bombarded with hotel choices that become so overwhelming that they are no longer productive. While it was exciting to see so many hotels at once when OTAs first appeared, von Pendant noted that the choices quickly became redundant and cumbersome. Its platform, on the other hand, seeks to organize hotels and deliver properties focused on creativity and authenticity – mostly independent, upscale or boutique hotels.

Regarding the curation process, von Pendant noted that the hotels on the platform are not defined by their Average Daily Rate (ADR) – rather, they are selected by the experiences they offer. The site showcases properties in Poland that it says are amazing, but not the highest priced, while it also includes hotels in Amsterdam that are high priced. However, these hotels do share something in common: They offer “personalized and unique experiences that speak to this destination and offer a vision for this guest” that is different from cookie-cutter stays, according to von Pendant.

Apps like Porter & Sail seek to provide consumers with a fast way to discover and book hotels. And they operate curated selection – as well as content – as they seek to set themselves apart from other hotel reservation services in the mobile age.

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