The Curious Identity of


Image from: Hotel / Shutterstock

Consumers shopping for a hotel online have many options to find the property they want at the prices they demand., a website originally founded by six of the largest hotel chains, launched earlier this year to help the founding brands capture bookings that might otherwise happen on an OTA

To gauge its success to date, Compete evaluated traffic volumes and sources using our patented normalization process which leverages Compete’s industry-leading panel and ability to unique consumers (which avoids false positives associated with double-counting).

Room Key started small but has grown at a remarkable pace, reaching over 4 million unique visitors in July.  The growth rate reads as a success, though the obvious next question is around the sources of its traffic as the site has evolved.  We identified two distinct phases.

Site Traffic & Site Visits,

Room Key Phase I: Meta-Search

Websites most commonly visited before and after are those of the founding partners: Marriott, Hilton, Choice, InterContinental, Wyndham, and Hyatt.  Room Key’s gains in traffic volumes are largely the result of an exit traffic strategy in which partners display a pop-under window showing properties on the founders’ sites consistent with search results on

This strategy effectively made Room Key a meta-search engine.  It also meant that approximately 90% of Room Key traffic came from the founding brands’ sites.   On average, less than 2% of Room Key visitors come from paid or natural search.  Room Key sends about the same amount back to the partners’ sites (i.e., when a Room Key shopper clicks on booking buttons).  Consumers that did not return to a partner site most often returned to a traditional search engine.

Phase II – Meta-Engine/Online Travel Agency Hybrid

Room Key was updated in May.  The site’s “beta” tag was removed, reviews from sites like TripAdvisor were more tightly integrated into the hotel information pages and, most importantly, the partnership with Travelocity’s Partner Network,   With the Res99 addition, Room Key became more of a hybrid in that it shows inventory from the founding partners and Travelocity.  The good news is that it increased consumer choices (i.e., more inventory).   The challenge is that it eroded the flow back to the partner sites: Res99 captured 7.4% of Room Key booking-driven transfers in its first month, which increased to 11.4% in June.

Room Key Transfers * A Room Key Transfer is defined as a click on a partner link from a search results page

Measuring Success in Interrupting Flow to OTAs

Room Key’s success hinges on its ability to drive bookings directly to the founding suppliers’ sites and not OTAs.  YTD results show that the founding brands’ losses to OTAs have increased over time, reaching nearly 24% in July.

Founding Site Bookings Lost to an OTA

Unlocking Room Key’s Potential

What we found:

  1. Phase I (Meta) – Success: Room Key has surpassed 4mm monthly unique visitors and continues to see MoM visitor growth rates over 20%.
  2. Phase II (Meta/OTA Hybrid) – Mixed Results: With the introduction of Res99 as a Room Key partner, Room Key is now potentially sending visitors to an OTA to book their hotel.
  3. Challenge for Room Key Founders: With the percentage of overall hotel supplier bookings lost to OTAs increasing through 2012, can founding brands optimize their partnerships with Room Key to help stem the losses?

Logical next steps to unlock Room Key’s potential could be:

  • Evaluate the impact Room Key visitation has on the share of participating brands’ bookings lost to OTAs
  • To promote parity in Room Key visitation patterns, identify whether or not the aggregate performance of founding partners is impacted by individual brands
  • Help participating brands evaluate their Exit Traffic Strategies with Room Key to ensure positive ROI


About Steve Solinsky:
Steve has spent over 10 years dedicated to the travel industry, primarily focused on Search & Media, helping leading brands improve their efforts. At Millward Brown Digital, Steve works on guiding major travel brands to improve site efficacy, traffic acquisition strategies, and understanding better ways to reach current & prospective customers. Prior to joining Millward Brown Digital in 2011, Steve spent several years managing both domestic & international paid search at TripAdvisor Media Group. Prior to TripAdvisor, Steve spent 6 years creating & growing paid search efforts for major travel companies, including Royal Caribbean,, Delta, and Marriott.

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  1. John F. Davis III (CEO, Room Key)

    Interesting observations. We did want to note that our partnership with Travelocity is designed to provide Room Key consumers with inventory that is complementary to that of our direct connect hotels. At the same time, we have been pleased to welcome thousands of new direct connects. As a result, the actual booking trends we have seen over the past 2+ months support our goal of enabling consumers to book directly with the hotel of their choice.