Friday, July 20, 2012

Wanted: Motel Occupancy Data Online

Suppose you are driving across the country—as, at the moment, we are. At some point each day, you reserve a motel room for the night. The earlier you reserve it, the more likely it is that you can get the room you want. Also the more likely it is that something that happens during the day, slow traffic due to construction, a long stop at some interesting place you didn't know existed, will change your schedule, leaving you with a room reservation an hour or two too far down the road.

Most of the time, the first half of the problem is imaginary; most motels, most nights, have empty rooms, so if you put off your reservation until you arrive at the motel the odds are pretty good that you will still have a bed for the night. 

Most of the time, but not all the time—a fact of which we were rudely reminded this evening. We were leaving Laramie Wyoming, heading east, planning to spend the night in Cheyenne, when I checked online for rooms. And discovered that Frontier Days, a major Cheyenne event, had filled every motel room in town. 

Which is why I am writing this in a motel room in Laramie.

It would be nice to have an easy way of spotting problems like the one we just encountered in advance. It might take the form of an online web page, perhaps a map, showing where in the country today's motel occupancy rate was close to 100%. If such a map existed, Cheyenne this morning would have shown as a bright red dot, Laramie--where it took two tries to find a motel with space, Laramie being a mere fifty miles from Cheyenne and Frontier Days--a pink one. We would have called ahead this morning and either planned in advance to stay in Laramie or changed our plans to push on to the next town after Cheyenne, about two hours further east.

The funny thing about this post is that I composed it, in my head, a day or so ago—before my theoretical problem turned out to be real.

14 Comments:

At 12:37 AM, July 21, 2012, Blogger randian said...

One thing I find interesting that hotels with vacancies only very rarely will haggle on the room rate, this despite the fact than an unsold room night is forever unsold.

 
At 12:51 AM, July 21, 2012, Blogger DerekL said...

An unsold room doesn't need to be cleaned, nor does it consume any utilities.

 
At 2:37 AM, July 21, 2012, OpenID Richard Allan said...

It's game theory. If they gave away rooms for free at midnight, everyone would wait until then to book their room.

 
At 4:08 AM, July 21, 2012, Blogger Jonathan said...

To respond to randian: In 1995 I arrived in Spain towards the end of the winter, planning to stay in a hotel for a matter of months. I visited various hotels and explained the situation; most offered little or no discount, but one offered a substantial discount, put me in a triple room at no extra charge, and removed the surplus beds to give me more space. I had to pay weekly, and the hotel owner anxiously checked with his staff that I was really paying.

 
At 4:28 AM, July 21, 2012, Blogger Jonathan said...

The idea of a motel occupancy map sounds like a nice opportunity for someone to set up such a thing; though it would take substantial time and effort to get going, during which it might not make money.

 
At 7:27 AM, July 21, 2012, Blogger Steamboat Lion said...

Perhaps an aggregator like Expedia or Kayak would be in the best position to do this. The question is what is the business model for them - I can't immediately see the incremental revenue.

As to David's immediate problem, he could simply have driven south for a bit to Steamboat Springs and stayed in my spare room :)

 
At 8:06 AM, July 21, 2012, Blogger dWj said...

There's a bike ride across Iowa starting in northwest Iowa tomorrow. If you're staying near I-80 and getting through Iowa by Wednesday, though, you should be okay.

 
At 10:45 AM, July 21, 2012, Blogger John David Galt said...

This sounds like an application that all the different smartphones' app stores would be happy to have for sale. Perhaps one of their developers will run across this post.

 
At 4:57 PM, July 21, 2012, Anonymous Pete said...

Or you can just call ahead and book all your motel stays before you leave your house.

 
At 7:46 PM, July 21, 2012, Blogger jimbino said...

You're lucky you aren't a Black Amerikan in the South of the 50s.

I've long debated with my libertarian friends the issue of a innkeeper's right to deny service to anyone for any reason.

 
At 8:55 PM, July 21, 2012, OpenID cellio said...

Perhaps this?
https://www.booking.com/

I consulted Travel.StackExchange and found this question:
http://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/1833/is-there-a-hotel-bb-finder-using-google-or-bing-maps , which led me there.

 
At 1:05 PM, August 27, 2012, Anonymous feedomforce said...

An unsold room doesn't need to be cleaned, nor does it consume any utilities.

It doesn't create any revenue, that's the point.

 
At 7:24 PM, August 27, 2012, Blogger randian said...

An unsold room doesn't need to be cleaned, nor does it consume any utilities.

Depends on where it is. If it's anywhere with humid summers it consumes plenty of A/C, unless the owner doesn't care about mold rotting his drywall.

 
At 12:32 PM, August 28, 2012, Blogger Ken B said...

You can piggy-back on Priceline. They have an offers page. If they are offering rooms at a deep discount vs not.

 

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