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July 30, 2009

A Pearl Of An Approach - Oyster Hotel Reviews Takes On An Industry.

Oyster Hotel Reviews, a new travel wesbite has caught our eye and got us thinking.

Oyster, which just launched in June and has received lots of buzz, offers detailed and structured reviews of hundreds of hotels in select destinations (more coming soon of course) and documents these reviews with hundreds of well-shot photos. Together, these ‘expert reviews’ and ‘undoctored photography’ aim to help travel planners avoid the hours of research and cross-referencing currently necessary when choosing a hotel.

While hotel sites may seem like an already crowded space, Oyster really runs against the grain and is designed to excel where other travel sites fall short.

How? Well...

* First the reviews are written by trained staff reporters, so the information is assumedly much less biased than that of begrudged vacationers or friends with an ulterior motive.

* Second, the reporters are also skilled photographers so the pictures you are seeing are actually good and aren’t scenes orchestrated by the hotel or some family’s entire vacation album.

* Third, Oyster employees stay at the hotels under-cover and therefore get and report about the same treatment that you or I would experience.

* Fourth, unlike other booking sites Oyster doesn’t sell rooms, and therefore doesn’t benefit in any way from your travel decision.

Beyond being an attractive and engaging search experience, what is really interesting is that Oyster seems to be a thorough critique of the industry standard (in particular the glut of user-generated content and the ticket seller approach). It stands in direct contrast to the existing options and fills the multiple gaps that these businesses leave open.

Often new business come about by taking the standard and tweaking one or two features to either improve quality, service, or price. It is much less common for new comers to emerge by turning industry standards on their head. Can you think of any?

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