We are currently planning two weeks of road trip fun through New Mexico, and are using every possible hotel booking and comparison website out there to check and compare prices, read reviews and find special post-Labor Day deals.
Have we found good prices and a few deals? Sure. But even though every website claims to be the go-to website you can trust whenever you’re booking a trip, we are still looking for our own go-to site. We may have found it – a new hotel booking website named TravelPony.
TravelPony.com’s unique selling point is that it combines good deals and social media. As a customer, you get certain deals by then mentioning the deal in your social media network (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
In this way, hotel chains gain access to a very unique angle – customers who are not only willing to share information, but are obligated to in a way that is almost as credible as word-of-mouth recommendation, the most coveted of all marketing strategies.
For customers, once you book the deal you found through TravelPony.com, you share it on the social media channel(s) of your choice, which would look something like “I just booked an awesome hotel deal on TravelPony.com”. As long as you don’t mind sharing this information with your network, you reap the benefits of a great deal.
Getting to know the Pony
When we started using the site, we were first greeted by a smiling pony, winking at you. Our first search involved looking for a New York hotel, where we will stay before flying back down to South America at the beginning of November.
I type in the city and our dates and hit ‘Find Deals’. This is where social media comes into play – I can only unlock the TravelPony deals if I log in, which I do through my Facebook account, and as I am logged in at Facebook, I’m automatically logged in whenever I open and search TravelPony (once I allow them to connect my Facebook account with their site). This is what the site looks like when you’re not logged in:
This is what you see when you are logged in:
Once you are logged in, you can see TravelPony’s special rates, and right below the hotel name and address the rates that other hotel booking websites offer for the same hotel at the same dates. You can now decide if you want to look at ‘Top Deals’, ‘Standard Hotels’ or ‘Upscale Hotels’. Top Deals reveal the deals with the biggest savings for both categories.
I can also choose between being shown the hotels with the cheapest price or the biggest savings compared to the usual rates of the hotels listed.
Once you click on ‘Book It’, you will see further details about the hotel: the exact location on a map, photos and amenities of the hotel, plus customer reviews.
What I found most interesting were the ‘Booking Options’ below the hotel description – here, you can see the rates that other booking websites offer for the same dates:
I couldn’t help but check if these were the actual rates of those sites?
I opted for The Edison Hotel, an art-deco hotel in New York’s theater district, just a short walk up from Times Square. TravelPony.com had stated a special rate of $236 per night for this hotel – a great bargain for this area of Manhattan.
I headed over to Expedia, which was supposed to cost $369 per night, compared to the $236 that TravelPony.com stated. I couldn’t even find that rate – the cheapest price Expedia offered me was $392, and a total of $1,361.12 for three nights.
Next, I checked Hotels.com for their rates on those dates – they also stated $392 as their lowest price, with a total of $1,361.12 – the exact same amount that Expedia charges.
I also checked the rates on Venere.com which offers three nights for our dates for a total of $1,177.00. Slightly cheaper than Expedia and hotels.com, but still over $350 more than the rates TravelPony.com gave us.
Last but not least, I checked the rates offered directly on the hotel’s website. The lowest available rate I could find there was $1361.11 for three nights – which shows that Expedia and Hotels.com don’t even offer a deal in this case.
So I went ahead to book the hotel to find out when the social sharing comes into play. As you confirm your booking, you get the option to share this deal via LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter (you still have to authorize the network of your choice to post on your behalf). If you are super excited about your deal, you can choose to share it on all three networks, or just one, but you don’t get any more of a discount if you share across three networks. You can also still cancel the room until 72 hours prior to check-in.
We were impressed with the results of the random searches we conducted for stays in Paris, London and New York – some of the rates were truly a steal!
The site has some room for improvement. First, additional features such as filters by neighborhood, review score or amenities of the hotel. Second, although the social factor is a major part in how they get these great rates from hotels, customers with larger audiences who are influencers don’t reap any larger or smaller benefits than someone with 50 friends on Facebook. Third, deals are currently U.S. centric, with London and Paris only just added as their first European destinations (Madrid and Barcelona will be added shortly). But given how new the site is, that’s not an issue for us at all…it just means we will wait patiently to see how the site grows.
Overall, however, we feel that TravelPony has nowhere to go but up and here’s why. They haven’t even added the ‘social proof’ factor yet, whereby customers might get to see if their Facebook friends have booked into the hotel they are considering – the way Tripadvisor now does. There is huge potential for hotels to gain access to massive audiences around the world through social media channels, meaning that TravelPony’s USP will attract more and more hotels and give them more leverage for even better deals.
You can give TravelPony.com a try, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.