A few years ago, I was working as an advisor to a hotel e-commerce specialist firm. In my support calls, I visited this Indian chap in Paddington, London, UK. He was the general manager for two hotels, and a third was on its way. His properties were running at extremely high occupancy levels, as he was giving the world fairly good value for money; his websites were quite prominent in the search portals, and I was keen to find out more about what could only be an intelligent person. During our conversations, it transpired that whilst this gentleman was severely underpaying his staff across the board, he employed no less than five people who - as a full time occupation - were writing blogs and hotels reviews about the imagined quality of his properties; Additionally they were setting up cluster, agency-type websites which always included ths same handful of hotels (including his); and the rest of the time were clicking onto competitors' pay per click advertisements to rack up their costs!
To me, an internet and hotel e-commerce enthusiast, this was an insult to who I was, to what I did for a living. This guy was taking everything that is wonderful about a free internet and was turning it into something nasty.
A few months later, I came across another type of fraud. An Irish hotel booking agency was agreeing with hotels to get from them inventory and rates (all you need to sell a hotel on line). This is extemely common for a hotel, and at any given time you will find multiple start-ups trying to make an honest living as small agencies of this type.
This agency had an edge though. Once the contracts were signed, they proceeded to copy everything from the hotel's own website, put together their own version of a home-page, buy a url that sounded like the hotel's official site, and advertised on pay per click the exact name of the hotel. Since the consumer always thought that they were booking the hotel's official website, this is identity theft of the worst kind. The consumer would book accepting a non-refundable 10% "downpayment" (which was the agency fees being collected up front) and the hotel would collect the rest on arrival of the guest. To add insult to the injury (or, in our case injury to the injury), this agency charged a premium all these hotels for the honor or having their identity stolen - all in the name of increased bookings.
The result of this orchistrated and expert attack to the hotel's website meant that the official website's bookings would go through the floor, and the fake website would get all the bookings - at the expence of the hotel. By the time the hotel would figure out what was going on, the fraudulant website would be producing such volumes of bookings that the hotel could simplly not afford to loose. Interestingly, this agency is still performing wonderfully for its owners, with phenomenal scoring in Google, although they still lie about who they are to the consumer.
The examples of such behaviour in the hospitality industry are many. Consumers and less savvy hoteliers are treated like sheep, there to be taken advantage of.
Sensational Hotels is my attempt to combat the nasty and the ugly. It is my effort towards the way things should be. Because today, they aren't. It is the result of long efforts to prove that fair, nice and clean, works; and what better way to do this than a not-for-profit website that tells is like it is. Sensational hotels is an effort to prove that that non-commercial websites can give better, safer and more reliable advice that their commercially oriented counterparts. As we are financially tied down to less than massive developments, and since it would be commercially impossible for us to revert bad reviews in a timely manner when a hotel fixed the problem, we thought we should stick to the positive.
Sensational hotels is an aggregation of information for the upscale holiday maker who wants to get advice free from bias, on what is good. So this website is attempting to answer the question: "Where can I find a sensational upscale experience if I want to go abroad?". For my many years in the industry, there is next to nothing that I have seen in terms of websites that simply gives clear, unbiased advise, and suggestions for upper scale hotels and luxury destinations. The likes of TripAdvisor - completely owned by Expedia - cannot be ignored, as they are a good idea and a landmark towards social website driven quality controls. Yet, there is so much "noise" in them, and so much subjectivity that is generated by the inevitable extremeties of product experience that motivates feedback, that they are not the full answer.
Operators of upmarket holiday booking agencies are a great help, but you simply can't book everything you want. Far from it. Some of these operators have found a handful of hotels in some fun destinations like Bali, Maldives or the Caribbean, and send all their guests there. That is fine if you want the tried and tested, but not fine if you like luxury that sometimes takes a ride off the beaten track, and awa from commercial imperatives.
We are a small team with big dreams. And that is where you come in. If you happen to have any advice for us, any suggestions of places where you have been and loved, any pictures that you would like to share with the world, please just contact us. We rely heavily on you, our visitor, to keep this place tidy, accurate, and to build our portfolio of hotels. Please don't be offended if we don't immediately take your advice when you have a suggestion. When a property is flagged up to us, we first go to their website and run a check. If the quality is adequate, we then contact both the property and all our network of specialists (not that many, and all volunteers) and ask them what they think. When we feel comfortable about a place, we then put it in the list of properties that need to be added. All in all, it will take some time, but please don't loose heart. We will listen and we will act.
Thank you for helping us to make a difference,
The management of SensationalHotels.com
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