Skip to main content

How Social Media Opened the Door for a New Type of OTA

@hotel describes itself as an OTA for Instagram and has found that social media is the perfect spot to find, attract and market to valuable leisure consumers.
screenshot of instagram account

Washington D.C.-based @hotel describes itself as “an OTA for Instagram.” According to the company, it emerged from the pandemic as the largest travel company on Instagram with more than 50 million social media followers (and growing with more than 2 million new followers per month). For those of you who keep count, that’s double the top 100 companies in travel combined. Additionally, the company claims @hotel goes viral (1 million or more organic views beyond its current followers) three times per day, with its content viewed more than 1 billion times every month. 

So what makes @hotel so interesting to consumers? Well, as a private booking platform, @hotel can offer exclusive rates through Instagram direct messages that are typically 30-70 percent lower than other public hotel booking sites through special “Instagram-only” rates. This means that travelers often stay at a 5-star hotel for 3-star pricing. It certainly seems to be resonating with consumers. The company says that other typical travel websites average 1.2 bookings per year, whereas it averages 1.4 bookings within 30 days of a traveler’s first booking. 

But where did the idea for this company come from? And what benefits does this new OTA offer? To find out, Hospitality Technology spoke with @hotel’s CEO Konrad Waliszewski.

Can you provide some background on the company and its origin?

Travel has always been my obsession, but I noticed quite a few years ago that even though technology had evolved, the travel industry’s online commerce presence hadn’t changed since it first came online in 2001. I became obsessed with that problem and wanting to cater to the modern traveler. Then, about seven years ago, I realized that social media was no longer just a place for connecting with friends. It had become a search and discovery platform. That seems obvious now, but it was a new idea back then. So we worked to build the No. 1 account on Instagram and TikTok for every major destination in the world and we worked to accumulate a massive following. At the end of the pandemic, we decided the time was right to launch our “OTA for social media.” So our followers on Instagram and TikTok can not only be inspired to travel via our content but can also book the hotel we’re featuring via a simple process. 

From a hotelier’s perspective, how does your product work?

We act as a full OTA. We work primarily with B2B suppliers and bed banks across the industry, but also have special deals with specific hotel properties. Once a hotel is on board with @hotel, we put a lot of effort into creating really compelling content that tells the story of why a guest should stay in that particular hotel. However, you won’t see our company bringing in expensive production crews and shutting down sections of the hotel to film horizontal videos. Instead, we will come in with top-notch social media creators and their iPhones and have them take social media native content which we can then put together in a way that will perform well on Instagram or TikTok. 

Why is it so important to create top notch social media content for these hotels?

Our typical customer is a high leisure traveler that is going to Instagram for visual inspiration. They want to spend money on a visually appealing trip and tend to spend three times more than the typical OTA customer. They also travel nine times more per year and book further in advance. They’re the ideal leisure traveler who are looking to book the premium room types, not just the cheapest standard room. Most hotels do a poor job of visualizing how their premium rooms are different from their standard rooms. So it’s really important to us to ensure that these potential guests clearly understand why they should visit a particular hotel, book a particular room, etc. and what makes it worth that extra $100 per night price tag. 

From a customer’s perspective, how does the booking platform work?

Customers can visit @hotel on Instagram or TikTok and click the link in our bio. If someone doesn’t have social media, they can visit directly and sign up with their email to unlock our private rates. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a hotelier today?

Hoteliers have been conditioned to spend money on marketing for Google search results. And while that is still relevant in many ways, Instagram and TikTok have become the new search engine for Millennials and Gen Z consumers. If they want to look for a new lunch spot in their hometown, they go to Instagram - not Google, not Google Maps, not Yelp. So the point is, there are so many prospective customers on social media. Brands need to work at building an organic audience, improving loyalty, etc. It’s a whole new way of marketing and thinking about advertisements. 

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds