Growing up one of three brothers my parents conditioned us to questions the norm. As Andy Grove said — “When “everyone knows” something to be true, nobody knows nothin” This questioning and debating extended to a variety of topics but centered mostly on business, world affairs, and politics. We grew up without a TV. That meant for purposes of entertainment we all read the NY Times and Chicago Tribune – and not just the sports section. These papers provided the knowledge base to feed our debates. This constant questioning and debating serves me and my brothers well when it comes to business; most industries often times get caught chasing an idea well beyond its useful life. A few years ago (during the excitement of Yelp, Wikipedia, etc.) my brother shot off an email questioning why there wasn’t an authoritative travel review site based that did not rely on the whims of a few unknown reviewers. A bit less then two years since that email Oyster Hotel Reviews was born today. Oyster generates unique reviews and undoctored pictures of hotels across tourist destinations like Miami and Jamaica amongst others.
Oyster Hotel Reviews contrarian take on travel review site marks the end of review sites built purely on user generated content (UGC). There are literally thousands of sites set-up to enable people like you and me to review restaurants, books, airlines, hotels, apartments, and much more. Except for a few companies that one can count on a single hand the rest never make it as they operate under the motto of “build and pray.” For the starters, the underlying technology is not complicated to build quickly and most end up differentiating on user experience. Secondly, as the name denotes the companies themselves don’t generate any unique assets (content, pictures, etc.), rather are left praying that they will be able to somehow socially engineer a set of users to contribute high value content.
Even the successful UGC review sites like Yelp provide inconsistent reviews between cities and restaurants making it difficult to rely upon unless you trust a specific user who shares similar tastes. Ironically, UGC review sites are highly susceptible to death at the hands of their own users — who either become too verbose and unfocused in their reviews (see the Yelp one-thousand word review), degenerate into yelling matches between users, or find ways to game the review system (see TripAdvisor).
If you are about to spend $1500+ on a hotel you want to know exactly what you are buying. When spending this kind of money you want to ensure that an authoritative service dug deep into the hotel rooms, pools, conference rooms, food, and more. Pure UGC reviews sites cannot cover products and services at this level of depth across all products. Yet, these details matter. Details like:
- nice toiletries by L’Occitane carried by the Four Seasons in Miami,
- blood on the sheets at Negril Escape Resort in the Bahamas
- excellent family services provided by Gran Bahia Principe in Jamaica.
- worn out hotel rooms at Sun Village Resort in Puerto Rico
Don’t be mistaken UGC will still have an important role, but I doubt savvy investors will form entire business built exclusively on UGC content. After all, people are social animals and love to voice their opinions, but they don’t do so in a vacuum. They need to something to respond to, and in Oyster Hotel Reviews they have quality content and pictures to respond to. Have an awesome picture to share or want to share your own experience at the Fairmont Turnberry in Miami — you can do that on Oyster.com.
[Full Disclosure: If not abundantly clear from the opening paragraph -- the founders of Oyster.com are my brothers - Elie and Eytan]