BERLIN—Booking isn’t always a seamless process for guests, especially when special accommodations are involved. Many guests look beyond direct channels—to OTAs, travel agents and competitors. A new messaging ecosystem for hoteliers is looking to change that behavior by keeping prospective guests on the page.
“We believe that today’s travel distribution scene disconnects travelers from hotels with an abundance of different middlemen—creating an ecosystem that is neither beneficial for the hotel nor the traveler,” said Niklas Pettersson, CEO and co-founder of Instaroom. “Instaroom is building a communication platform that helps hoteliers rely less on expensive distribution channels.”
Designed to manage complex customer journeys, transactions and bookings, Instaroom, a web-based concierge platform, enables hoteliers to engage with prospective guests. The solution includes a white-label widget for hotel websites and analytics tools. It also centralizes all communications across various messaging platforms, including Facebook, WeChat, email and more. Instaroom’s concierge platform is fully optimized for mobile.
“We’re powering our concierge platform with the latest in messaging technology, including AI and payment integrations, enabling hotels to build personalized and automated customer journeys that are equal to or better than any leading consumer-facing booking platforms,” he said.
About 50% of prospective customers use Instaroom’s widget to book reservations. The remaining 50% either have general questions or inquiries related to existing bookings.
“It’s amazing to see how much interaction there is and how much low-hanging fruit there is for the hotel,” Pettersson said. “The reservations coming through our tool are high-value, not for a standard or double room. The most common type of reservations coming through our tool are for groups, families (multiple rooms), conferences, events and so forth.”
Pettersson and co-CEO Johan Hammer began developing the platform’s concept in 2015. A couple of years after that, the duo founded Instaroom and began building out the solution.
Instaroom partnered with Scandinavia-based First Hotels—a hotel collection with more than 90 properties centrally located in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Spain—to initially launch the platform into the market. The concierge platform company has had its beta product in more than 25 hotels throughout the region for the last six to eight months. Aside from Scandinavia, sales efforts in Singapore, Indonesia and elsewhere in Europe are underway. These efforts are expected to amp up as solution features roll out.
Both independent hotels and brands are leveraging Instaroom’s concierge platform, according to the company. While Instaroom typically recommends its off-the-shelf solution to independent properties, it suggests a more customized offering to brands.
“Brand are typically one step ahead of independent hotels—both in terms of information and technology,” Pettersson said. “This is something we have adapted with our customized approach.”
Instaroom’s concierge platform is free for customers to try until they’re happy with it. “We decided to make it ‘free until you are happy’ to show our customers that we are serious and that we are looking for long-term partnerships,” Pettersson said. For now, all of the company’s customers are on Instaroom’s standard pricing plan. A premium option will become available after the company launches its platform bots later in 2018.
“The first version of our AI bots will be an FAQ bot, which will be able to respond to the most commonly asked questions,” he said. “The goal is to eliminate the simple but time-consuming task of responding to simple, repeatedly asked questions in order to give hotel staff more time to handle high-value tasks, such as booking requests.”
Swedish state venture capitalist group Almi has funded Instaroom. Private investors have also backed the company. Instaroom is closing a second seed round and plans to leverage the additional funding to further develop its AI technology and business faster.
“Our five-year plan is to continue building awesome customer journeys and to help travelers book their entire travel itinerary through one simple message,” he said. “We see amazing opportunities in connecting our AI platform with multiple data points across the travel vertical, thereby enabling hoteliers to close and automate complex customer journeys, from hotel room to transportation to all the way to activities within the destination.”