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IDEA #33 – Motel Pricing and Availability by Phone

When I’m traveling on road trips, I hate finding a motel. I usually wait until I’m dead tired and find the next one — I hope it’s not sketchy and reasonably priced. Typically, it’s very sketchy.

It’d be great to know the closest motels from my location on whatever highway I’m on — also the price, availability, how many beds, is there truck parking, is there a pool, wireless internet, and what have others rated the property … or what are their comments?

I’m imaging the service happening all by calling on a phone. The system would call the motels each night (using VXML) and the motels would answer a question or two — maybe they get a call around 6pm and then another around 9pm, and the system asks them what their availability is like (“low availability”, “no vacancy”, “lots of rooms”).

The user could then call a phone number, somehow specify where they are (maybe voice recognition, “West Lafayette, Indiana”, as well as what highway you’re on and which way you’re headed on it) and specify any key options they want by speaking or pressing through a series of menus (“must have 2 beds”, “must not be sketchy”, “must have cable TV”) — then they are told the closest motels.

Motels could also pay money to be given to the user ahead of others (with a mile range). Maybe the user could secure their motel room before even showing up — they could negotiate via the system what they’re willing to pay (a la, and then the first motel to accept, gets paid through the system and everything is taken care of.

This could also all be done for hotels too. I was just thinking of the road trips I’ve taken in the past where I’m looking for cheap, typically late at night, and not sketchy.

  • Colin Dowling

    This is an interesting idea, but I would think that it would almost be essential to give the user a way to filter the results automatically. Perhaps there would would be a website or user interface where you could list the last 10 hotels you stayed in that you liked, or perhaps the service would remember which hotels you had used that they recommended and thus recommend more that are similar.

    In other words, I think that providing a service that suggested a hotel in the near proximity in a certain price range would probably be pretty easy to do. Providing a service that suggested a hotel in the near proximity that I would be glad I stayed at might be a tougher row to hoe.


  • Jeremy Kandah

    I just wish that GPS navigation devices were cooler/cheaper/didn’t cost money for service. I know that the GM service (onstar) can find places, but the availability is an awesome factor.

    A little ridiculous, but what if you could do the same with restaurants. You could find out the wait (GPS device, because phones already do this) for a table. So, when you are driving by, you can decide if you want to step in.

    Or take it a step further and have every business on this. You can look up their store hours, etc.

  • James D Kirk

    How would this system prevent/reduce the (sketchy) motel owners from indicating that their place is neat, clean, spiffy, roach free, etc? (i.e., not sketchy)

  • Dave Bonitati

    I think you could pull this off without voice recognition. Here’s how:

    Get all the hotels/motels within 1 mile of all the Interstates. Rate them by stars so the caller can be sure he doesn’t get a “sketchy” room (unless he wants one), maybe a single star would fall into the sketchy catagory. You could partner with AAA to get the ratings and hotel/motel data for that matter.

    So with the data and ratings this is how it would work for example: The user driving down I75 decides he wants to stop in 30-miles. So he calls the Find Me A Room Hot Line and the systems asks the caller Enter the Interstate Number. The caller enters 75, then the system asks Enter The Mile Marker Where You Want to Find a Room. The caller looks at the mile market he’s just passing (mile market 56) and adds 30 to it, entering 86. The system then asks the caller What Quality Of Room Would You Like, Press 1 For A Five Star Room, Press 2 For A Four Star Room, Press 3 For A Three Star Room etc, and Press 5 For A Sketchy Room. The system could ask additional questions if needed but you get the idea. Then it goes out and searches what hotel/motel rooms are available around mile marker 86 matching the user selected search criteria. It then comes back and reads, using TTS, the available rooms, hotel/motel name, price, and asks the caller if he’d like to reserve the room. If the user is registered with us we could handle the reservation for him sending the reservation to the hotel’s reservation system and getting a confirmation number we can send to the callers cell phone by text message or to keep it simple, we could just transfer him to the hotel of his choice to complete the reservation.

    I like the idea, let’s get started!