• Hopper shops on hotel price drop

The Hopper app has become the latest piece of distribution technology to offer notifications of hotel price drops, in addition to a forecasting tool.
The company said that the tool meant “you never have to comparison shop again” putting additional pressure on the metasearch market.
Hopper had previously focused on flights, with customers selecting times and destinations, sending notifications if prices dropped. The group said it could also predict prices, having claimed 95% accuracy in predicting flight prices up to one year in advance, as well as using an AI component to suggest hotels.
The group launched a trial of the hotel model in New York in 2017, which has now been expanded. It said: “We’ve amassed millions of historic hotel prices along with real-time pricing and demand data in order to accurately forecast future prices for hotels across the globe. Most consumers miss out because they spot check prices about a month before their trip or wait until the last minute. Often times, the best deals can be found two to three months in advance.
“By extending our recommendation engine to hotels, our goal is to eventually be able to predict the perfect hotel for you before you even begin searching. If you watch a hotel, Hopper will do the work for you and continuously monitor both public rates and any private rates for which you are eligible and explore every channel to secure you a deal that can be around USD50 cheaper than prices online. You’ll receive a push notification the instant prices drop or if Hopper secures you a private deal.”
Liana Corwin, Hopper travel expert, added: “We’re excited to share that over 270,000 hotels across 1,600 major cities are now available to book directly in Hopper. There are now more choices than ever with the most popular international destinations boasting an average of 1,000 hotels and top domestic destinations offering more than 350 hotels.
“You can now “watch a hotel” and Hopper will forecast and track prices, as well as search for private deals for specific hotels you’re interested in – you never have to comparison shop again.”
The company said that around 25% of bookings were the result of AI-driven recommendations, and 90% of sales came directly from push notifications.
The model shared some similarities with platforms such as Skyscanner, which sends price change notifications and Kayak which launched a price alert tool in 2017.
The announcement came as metasearch sites such as Kayak were coming under increasing pressure from Google, where the latest iteration of Google Hotels included direct booking and a number of features, including searching for deals, map-based listings and the ability to track pricing.
The site offered a number of options on booking, including the OTAs and metasearch engines and direct booking. Richard Holden, VP, product management, travel, Google, said: “Set on your flight but need to whittle down your hotel options? Let’s imagine you’re going to Miami at the end of March, and there are over 300 hotel results for your search. To help you find the right hotel for your trip, apply our new Deals filter. This filter uses machine learning to highlight hotels where one or more of our partners offer rates that are significantly lower than the usual price for that hotel or similar hotels nearby. You can also view a hotel’s highlights – like a fancy pool, if it’s a luxury hotel, or if it’s popular with families – with expanded pages for photos and reviews curated with machine learning.
“Google Maps can also help when it comes to picking a hotel by showing you if a hotel is in a convenient location and near relevant landmarks. Search for hotels near a landmark or point of interest like ‘Hotels near Disney World’ in Google Maps on your laptop. You’ll see several hotel options and their rates, plus the walking and driving distances to your point of interest.”
Last September Google launched a tool indicating the cheapest time to book flights and hotels, using historical prices.

HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: The ability to see into the future is of varying interest given your position in life, but it’s fair to say that most of us would garner a few lottery numbers, rendering the cost of hotels for the rest of existence largely irrelevant. That aside, the ability to predict hotel prices would probably do for most of us.
Frank Reeves, co-founder & CEO, Avvio, told Hotel Analyst: “The key thing with Hopper is telling you when you should book, now or later, rather than doing what the metasearch and other comparison sites do. There is a space for that in travel, but the question for hotels is whether customers then use this to research and go and book direct or not. There is also the question of revenue management. As customer behaviour changes, so hotels will have to change.
“If Hopper has their own direct supply from hotels then they can undercut the OTAs, but it’s very difficult to take market share with that model. Hopper has credibility with that direct relationship, but if Google was to get into this space and offer hotel plus car plus flight then it would be a far more trusted channel.”
Reeves also drew attention to Honey, a browser extension on Chrome, which alerts users to discount codes and vouchers when they are about to buy products. If it was to get into travel, the sector would have something else to get the sweat running at night.

Additional comment [by Andrew Sangster]: Hopper is a clear example of how artificial intelligence is going to have a profound impact on the hotel sector. AI was already seen as an effective tool for hoteliers, but its double-edged sword can also cut in favour of consumers.
Hopper was backed in late 2018 with a USD100m of funding, bringing its total of funding close to USD200m. The likes of co-founder and CEO Fred Lalonde are going to be bringing many more AI-related disruptions to the hotel sector.

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