Hotelicopter has a database of 160,000 hotels (TripAdvisor claims 700,000), and it does achieve the impossible of managing to be different. It has actually been around since 2006, but an acquisition of new capital in April 2011 has seen it rise steadily in popularity with American users recently. You will still have to delve several pages into those Google search results before you find it, and it’s far from being a household name, but its elegant simplicity may yet prove to be a winner in the ever-increasing SmartPhone market.
The company, working out of Charlottesville, Virginia, shows that ‘small is beautiful’, not only in the size of its operation compared to the Big Boys but in its very basic approach to hotel booking. “Where do you want to stay” is the question on its home page. At this stage even dates are optional. Type in “New York” and its 454 NY hotels start to appear in a layout that looks a lot like Pinterest.
The information is scaled down to the minimum, with just a photo, name, star rating and a lowest price. You can toggle between this view and a map view, to check the locations. You can also switch from the Gallery view to the Summary view, where the hotels are instead listed down the page, with a couple of sentences about each one. Click on “View Full Details” and the detailed hotel information is shown in a pop-up window.
It’s a very different approach to the information overload you get with the likes of TripAdvisor, where every single page is a cacophony of stuff competing for your attention – hundreds of user reviews, Google maps, prices, restaurants in the area, things to do, weather reports, adverts, other hotels you looked at recently, hotels your Facebook friends have stayed at, even other hotels that complete strangers who looked at this hotel also happened to look at. ENOUGH ALREADY!!
Hotelicopter hopes its Back to Basics approach will appeal to the SmartPhone generation, and its home page has a blog-like simplicity about it. Across the top are five navigation buttons; Price, Star Rating, Amenities, Brand, and Sort. The first two offer sliding bars, so that as you narrow the price range to between, say $200-$300 a night, all other hotels disappear. Amenities and Brand offer a drop-down box where you can tick your preferences, while Sort allows you to sort the hotels alphabetically, by price or by star rating.
It’s a welcomingly simple approach, and you can feel yourself relaxing as the choices available are narrowed down to something you feel you can cope with. Find the hotel and then Hotelicopter searches for the best available rate, through Priceline, Hotels.com, Booking, Expedia.
What do you look for in a hotel booking website?