Australians bedded down by mounting cost of living and travel expenses will be able to haggle with hotels for cheaper rates following the launch today of a unique new accommodation website – GraysEscape.com - unveiled by Australia’s largest online auction house, GraysOnline.
The world-unique website, which went live today with a direct link to its popular parent site, GraysOnline, promises a win-win for Australian and New Zealand hotels and their guests, with hoteliers able to fill empty rooms via controlled discounting and travellers able to score exclusive and confidential discounts of up to 20 per cent below already reduced by negotiating directly with the property.
Launching the game-changing, offer-based website, GraysOnline CEO, Cameron Poolman, said GraysEscape.com would regenerate competition in the booming online reservations market, empower consumers by allowing them to make offers on rooms and also boost Australia’s struggling domestic tourism industry.
“Our local travel industry is hurting so this exciting and innovative way to put more bods in beds by allowing hotels and consumers to bargain with each other one-on-one via the red-face-free medium of a website will really help accommodation and tourism providers and also everyday Australians saddled with the rising cost of living,” Mr Poolman said.
“Australians are often embarrassed to haggle, even in places where it is prevalent such as Asia, but on www.graysescape.com, scores of hotels across Australia and New Zealand are now open to offers, allowing anyone to strike a special, unique rate lower than that on any other accommodation website. In the end, the hotel fills an otherwise empty room and the customer scores a top deal.
“Consumers today are looking for a good deal but hotel room rates across most reservation websites are all much the same. GraysEscape.com will shake things up, offering consumers more competition and an alternative, rewarding - and fun - way to book accommodation,” he said.
GraysEscape.com represents the first foray into the accommodation market by leading online retailer, GraysOnline, which attracts 1.1 million shoppers every month. Featuring a range of accommodation from luxury hotels and resorts to motels, B&Bs, holiday parks and hostels, GraysEscape.com also represents an evolution of the former and smaller, award-winning portal, Ubid4rooms.com, which GraysOnline purchased earlier this year. Managing GraysEscape will be Ubid4rooms founder and now General Manager of GraysOnline’s new travel division, Gary Berman.
Based on the concept that ‘a vacant room is revenue lost forever’, GraysEscape.com will differ from GraysOnline’s auction model as it will allow customers to make offers directly to hotels, with no competitive bidding. Hoteliers have three hours to accept an offer or bargain with the customer for another rate. The system allows guests to accept lower-than-advertised discounted tariffs on a confidential, one-on-one basis without the agreed rates being made public or affecting a property’s brand integrity and commercial arrangements in the market.
Mr Poolman said GraysEscape.com offered consumers fast and easy-to-use ‘buy now’ or haggle options, even cheaper ‘Hush Hush’ deals where a property’s name is not revealed until the booking is made, quick search functionality and the ability to make an offer to three hotels at once, with the first property to accept gaining the business. The site also offered hotels flexible ranking and display options and the ability to switch off the haggling in peak periods.
Minimum offers were built into the bargaining system, Mr Poolman said, but up to 70 per cent of offers made by consumers under the former Ubid4rooms model were accepted by hoteliers keen for the business. By bargaining on GraysEscape.com, consumers stood to save up to 20 per cent off the already reduced rates advertised on other booking sites, he said.
“GraysEscape offers hoteliers, who like to see all their beds filled each night, the chance to offer better, more competitive rates and it offers consumers much better deals,” he said. “No other website allows the customer to make an offer direct to the hotel for less than the advertised, already discounted price and no other site gives hotels the ability to negotiate directly with their clients and be flexible with their rates.
“What we are doing, in a dynamic and personal way, is connecting buyers and sellers online for their mutual benefit. We are excited our vision for GraysEscape as a bold and innovative new service for GraysOnline has finally been realised and we are confident it will quickly prove successful as a mainstream way to buy accommodation, with more hotels joining our site every week willing to negotiate with our customers.”
Properties featured on GraysEscape include major hotel groups such as Rydges, Toga, Oaks, 8 Hotels, Best Western, Stamford Hotels, Golden Chain, Chifley Hotels, Country Comfort, Choice Hotels and Leisure Inns.
GraysOnline.com is a top 10 Australian retail website, auctioning and selling more than 200,000 consumer, industrial and commercial goods online every month, including TVs, cars, wine and furniture. The site attracts 1.1 million unique visitors a month, with a loyal customer base of 1.35 million members, more than 570,000 email subscribers and 19,000 new members every month. Staffed nationally by 400 people, GraysOnline is Australia Post’s fourth biggest customer, with more than two million items delivered a year.