On Tuesday, Amazon launched a new hotel service that emphasis weekend gateways within driving distance from major metropolitan areas and includes hotel rates and not just the big discounts that Amazon has been offering through Amazon Local for several years.
Amazon’s entry into the travel arena is not something new. Amazon Local which was introduced earlier offered customers with flash deals and other deep discounts on hotels in the range of 40% to 60%. However, through Amazon Destinations, the company picks some selected hotels for adding in the site and instead of steep discounts, it now posts published rates instead. This is expected to give opportunity to partner with more hotels on a longer run and on a ongoing basis. Currently, it features hotels in Pacific Northwest, Southern California and the Northeast.
The field is already filled with competitors like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Groupon and other sites so Amazon has to create a niche to stand apart from the competitors. It would not be a big deal for Amazon to pull in customers for there is already large traffic to its main site but it will have to work hard to create a difference and show how its different from other online travel agencies like Airbnb, Hipmunk etc.
The Seattle e-commerce company explains that the aim of the new site is to assist the travelers in planning and booking local trips. Amazon spokesperson Tom Cook says, “More than 40% of all U.S domestic leisure trips are short-term getaways of 1-3 nights and many of these trips are to nearby, drivable destinations.” He also added, “However, travelers often have a hard time planning local getaways. It’s difficult to know where to go, the process is labor-intensive and people often miss out on finding great places to stay.”
There are no flight options on the site as Amazon Destinations emphasizes drive destinations and weekend gateways. The tag line of the site is “Hit the road: Book local getaways.” In each metro area there are features destinations that includes five in the Pacific Northwest, four in Southern California and eight in the Northeast. Hotels like Beach Plum Resort, Driftwood Resort on the Ocean and Montauk Manor, all in Montauk, New York are free to offer both discounted and published rates, packages and special offers. It also give suggestions and recommends for restaurants around the area and activities to do.
When asked whether it would soon expand to other U.S destinations, Amazon declined to comment. But it is expected for the company to do so in the future for it makes more sense. In addition, the site is already set up to collect user reviews for each property which potentially could make the service a competitor to other travel sites or local review sites, like TripAdvisor, Yelp etc.,
The move comes at a time when the company is working to expand and widen its offering and operations to consumers to stretch further directly into their everyday lives ie., moving beyond shopping online and delivering good at the doorstep or digital items that can be downloaded online. Very recently, the company moved into local services like plumbing and other local professionals with launch of Amazon Home Services.
For now, Amazon Destinations is housed under the bigger Amazon Local brand, which works as Amazon’s Groupon competitor, providing a broad range of deals from various shops, restaurants, bars and other properties. This new service is just an add-on to Amazon in the past few years. The company that kick-started as online bookstore has become a huge market place for millions of products – from pins to televisions.