Lifestyle

Hipmunk scraps old hotel search, builds new one from scratch (updated)

Update 5:17pm: Hipmunk reports that its neighborhood description and booking features are experiencing hiccups and will be unavailable for the next 48 hours or more.

Update 5:32pm: Looks like Hipmunk got its neighborhood description feature up, but as of now is still working on bookings.

Hipmunk completely revamped its hotels product today, adding in new ways to understand the neighborhoods you’re staying in, so you don’t get stuck in the family zone, when you really want a fun nightlife.

Prior to this, Hipmunk Hotels was fairly slow and a little hard to scroll through to find the hotel you want. It was also really difficult to find specific hotels. Hipmunk saw the problems and decided to scrap its old hotels product and build a new one from scratch.

“Hipmunk started out as just flights, and we were fairly naive about the industry and used to joke that when we were big like Kayak, we would sell out and do hotels as well. Then we found ourselves working on hotels a couple weeks later,” said co-founder Steve Huffman in an interview with VentureBeat. “We built this from an impure motivation, ‘We should have a hotels products so lets just build one.’ But at the time, I don’t think we really grasped what the challenge was. So we’re rethinking things now.”

Hipmunk previously used Walkscore, which showed you if a hotel was near a “foodie” area, tourist attractions, shopping, nightlife, and more, but it didn’t differentiate between interests. Now, Hipmunk has hired local writers to write different neighborhood guides for the majority of the United States’ big cities, that also give recommendations based on your needs. It now also lets you filter by “Traveler Type” so you can find areas focused on business, families, outdoors activities, gay culture, romance, and more.

Based on your preferences and Hipmunk’s “ecstasy” algorithm, a search will only turn up the top three hotels that match you. The ecstacy rating is based on online reviews, ratings, amenities, price, and more. Huffman found that customers were only clicking on the first few results anyway, but if you really want the full list, there’s a button to view more options.

You’re also finally going to be able to search for a specific hotel. If your friend recommends The Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill, you can find it and see the neighborhood type to see if it’s near activities you’re interested in.

My favorite change is that you’re now able to purchase some of your flights and hotels right on Hipmunk. Hipmunk acts as an affiliate, bringing together lots of different flight- and hotel-booking options from around the web. When you go to purchase, you are taken to the booking company’s website. But now, the company is using application programming interfaces from some of its partners to build its own check-out process right on the site.

With all these add-ons providing you neighborhood information, specific hotels for you interests, and pop ups of things to do in the area, you’d think Hipmunk wanted to be a travel agent. Chief executive Adam Goldstein promises that’s not the case. The company has no intention of dealing with the big salesforces that come with being a travel agent. He doesn’t want to deal with airlines or do the booking for clients. He’d rather put the information in the hands of the consumer and let them do their own dirty work.

A very Silicon Valley way of thinking.

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