Today, more than ever, the medium is the message….as much as the message itself. If you have a friend (or child) who refuses to talk on the phone, but wants to have every interaction by text, you’ll know what I mean. We are a people who are being conditioned to strongly prefer some styles of communication over others.
So it should come as no surprise that the booking process for hotels has now come to messaging. A savvy start up called SnapTravel is allowing users to research and book a vacation on SMS, Facebook Messenger, and Slack. Their pricing is highly competitive as the service draws not only from such online travel agencies as Hotels.com, Expedia.com, Booking.com, and Priceline.com, but also has a direct pipeline to Amadeus, which is the global distribution system that travel agents use.
And the service is, yes, a “snap” to use. The would-be traveler enters in her destination and dates of travel and then is instantly messaged what the ballpark prices will be on that date for 3- and 4-star hotels. SnapTravel then follows up with quick queries on preferences for types of hotels and whether quality, price, or location is most important. After the app performs a search, options are shown to the user and she either buys or bails.
But if she buys, things get distinctly old school. In an unusual move for the bot-driven world of travel booking, SnapTravel assigns an actual human travel agent to assist the traveler with her stay. According to founder Fazal Hussein “For every booking we make, we call the hotel on the morning of check-in to try and negotiate a free upgrade for the user.”
In addition, SnapTravel offers the services a bricks-and-mortar travel agent might for a top executive client. If the user arrives earlier than expected, for example, she can contact SnapTravel to see if it can help her get an early check-in time (the same with check-out if she decides to sleep in on the final day of the stay). The service will also check on items such as if there’s a pull-out couch that can be added to the room, or if room service can be pre-ordered.
The only downside that I’ve seen, so far, is that SnapTravel doesn’t factor in taxes until the end of the transaction. So, for example, if you request a $250 a night hotel room in New York City, the service will show you an array of hotels for around that price with the note that the rate will be plus taxes, meaning the Millennium Broadway at $259 a night actually costs $297 a night when all is said and done.
That's not different than what the regular online travel agencies do, but with the curated search (you only see a few of their picks, at the initial price level you chose) it means that you have to go back two steps to actually get to a price you can afford.
SnapTravel is relatively new, so we’ll see whether or not it makes it makes it in the down-and-dirty arena of travel bookings. But if you have any of the “messaging-only” folks in your life, let them know about the service. They’ll thank you. By text.
(To try the service on Facebook Messenger: m.me/snaptravel. To try it out on SMS, just visit www.getsnaptravel.com on your phone.)