HB EXCLUSIVE: Jetaport Rebrands As Skipper

NEW YORK—Today, Jetaport, a hotel group booking service, has rebranded with the launch of Skipper.

“Travelers want the easiest and most hassle-free way to book hotels for groups, but the existing options were not ideal for both sides of the marketplace (users and hotels),” said Jetaport/Skipper CEO Jason Shames, who founded the company with Marcos Jaramillo. “When Marcos and I started building Jetaport five years ago, we developed technology to help unmanaged social groups plan and book trips. We soon realized there was an opportunity to use technology to improve the transaction for groups looking to book nine or more hotel rooms—the transactions the GDS cannot book.

“Now, we are rebranding under the name Skipper with the goal of enhancing our platform to further alleviate pain points associated with booking hotels for groups of all sizes,” continued Shames. “Our rebrand is a reflection of our improved existing large group offering while adding new features for small groups to book instantly, with better payment options (together or separately) and at discounted rates.”

Shames reflected on the meaning behind the new name. “The traditionally offline and time-consuming process of booking group travel is mitigated with Skipper. Users are essentially ‘skipping’ steps in their travel planning process and getting a better experience,” he said. “The word ‘skipper’ is referred to as ‘a leader,’ and our clients are essentially leaders in their travel planning—with Skipper guiding them every step of the way.”

Skipper worked with Brooklyn-based branding agency, Red Antler, for its rebrand. “They have been highly successful in creating captivating brand experiences that people connect with, such as Casper and Birchbox,” he said.

One rebrand feature is flexible payment options for all travelers, which used to only be available for large groups. Users can either pay upfront for all rooms or set aside rooms at an exclusive, discounted rate, then share the booking page with the rest of the group so each can pay individually. “Our goal was to provide instant booking options for small groups at discounted rates with flexible payment options,” said Shames.

Another new feature is Skipper Score, which is based on a proprietary algorithm that dynamically calculates and displays a number and search rank based upon a customer’s preferences, telling them how suitable a property is for their needs. These scores are generated from a sophisticated algorithm weighing factors such as desired location, price, guest experiences and expert reviews.

Additionally, Skipper offers booking advisors, group travel experts that can offer guidance for any questions that come up during a customer’s booking process. Users who are in need of 10 or more hotel rooms are paired with their own designated advisor who manages all the legwork for them from liaising with hotels, negotiating contracts, executing special requests and more.

Finally, Skipper Room Calculator helps customers estimate room count.

Shames noted there are major benefits for hotels to partner with Skipper, which is the exclusive provider of hotel room blocks for The Knot, and also works in partnership with Convene, a provider of meeting and conference centers. “We’re seeing a greater demand for [weddings], family reunion trips, sport trips, and corporate room blocks,” said Shames. “In a business perspective, our goal is to reach more group types that are repeat customers, which will generate long-term business for us and for the hotels in our network.

“Our goal is to generate more business for hotels while making group sales teams more efficient—sending the right groups to the right hotels,” he continued. “We do this by designing products with hotels in mind. Our simplified eRFPs are tailored based on group type and are sent directly to a hotel’s sales team. Our Skipper Score algorithm calculates how well a hotel matches a user’s needs, bringing the right groups to the right hotels. Because our clients are self-selecting properties they are interested in receiving offers from, our hotel partners are only responding to leads the clients are interested, resulting in a high conversion rate. Many of our partner properties receive hundreds of dollars in booking revenue for each lead responded to. On the consumer front, our advisors and the user experience educate clients on the booking process to ensure a seamless transaction.”

Shames added that Skipper is a way for hotels to maximize group business and fill need dates. “We’ve seen a property’s RevPAR improve through increased occupancy from our group bookings. We also only take a 10% commission on consumed rooms,” he added. “We have new updates planned this summer to help further automate the repetitive work of group business and we’re excited to start rolling those out soon.”

—Nicole Carlino