New Travel Site Offers Virtual Search For Consumers, Branding Tie-Ins For Advertisers

Advertisers looking to connect with consumers at the moment they are ready to make a purchase might find it in a travel site debuting today. Oyster, a New York-based hotel review site, serves up details on about 500 hotels in Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Miami, New York and Las Vegas -- but there are more destinations on the way. Visitors can search by hotel rating, price, location, amenities and more.

The site's search engine can find information on a variety of hotels, such as luxury, family, pet-friendly and romantic. Going to Miami? Topical searches range from nearby adventures to family services. Photos with captions paint a picture of each location, so consumers know what they agree to before plunking down the bucks for the business destination or the vacation spot of their dreams.

The unedited photographs provide details of lobbies, hallways, guestrooms and amenities, such as pools, restaurants and bars and spas. And while content provides consumers with the tool to find the perfect hotel, the possibilities for brands like Tommy Bahamas, Virgin America and Hyatt Hotels to tie in advertising are endless. That includes Crest, Colgate and Charmin because the site reviews bathrooms, too.

Visitors to Oyster won't find advertising on the site today, but possibilities to generate revenue come from targeted paid advertising, as well as transactions, such as selling the room night to the site visitor, according to Eytan Seidman, who cofounded the site with brother Elie Seidman after leaving the Microsoft Live Search team, now Bing.com.

The product roadmap site visitors will find an engine to search and retrieve airline flight information to any hotel destination reviewed, Seidman says.

Oyster features 50,000 unedited photos and nearly a million words of copy that search engines can index and rank well over time. "That's where our search expertise comes into play," Seidman says. "The on-site search index is Google-fast. Queries load in less than one second."

Seidman says the site runs on a custom index that supports information on tens of thousands of hotels, compared with most engines using off-the-shelf databases that can't perform. He believes the site will rank well in search engines because it has great content to which other sites will link and was designed from the ground up to accommodate search engine crawlers from Bing, Google, Yahoo and others.

Oyster has nearly a dozen on-staff reporters who visit locations anonymously, take pictures and write reviews on everything from restaurants and spas, to the brand of toiletry and television in the rooms. Pearls, rather than stars -- from one to five -- rate the destinations. A space for comments gives hotel patrons a place to write about experiences, too. A view of the surrounding location on Google Maps offers information on nearby roadways, businesses and more.

Bain Capital Ventures and Oyster founders funded the company.

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