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Amazon’s Twist On Travel

Amazon officially confirmed all of the rumors and speculation that it was going to enter the travel business and did it yesterday.

Amazon Destinations is a hive off of Amazon Local, and allows hotels, resorts and bed and breakfasts to advertise there and for users to sort by location. Think of it as a cross between Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Airbnb and Hotel Tonight with a twist.  

The twist, as hyped by Amazon, is that the site automatically posts popular destinations based on where the user lives. With a tagline “Hit the road: Book local getaways,” Amazon is setting itself apart by offering a way to find unique weekend getaways that are close to home.

“We created Amazon Destinations to solve a problem most travelers face: how to easily plan and book a local getaway trip. Interestingly, more than 40 percent of all U.S. domestic leisure trips are short-term getaways of 1-3 nights, and many of these trips are to nearby, drivable destinations,” Amazon spokesman Tom Cook said. “However, travelers often have a hard time planning local getaways. It’s difficult to know where to go, the process is labor-intensive, and people often miss out on finding great places to stay.”

The Destinations page also allows for hotels to offer discounts, packaged deals, etc. on Amazon, and for the user to secure the reservation directly using the calendar on the site. Amazon’s calendar also allows users to compare prices based on the travel dates selected so travelers can understand when peak rates are in force. Some of those perks are available on other hotel booking sites, but Amazon believes it has one edge on its service: each advertised listing has been selected by Amazon employees themselves, the company claims.

“These are all handpicked properties that have been visited by someone at Amazon to make sure they meet our quality,” Cook told The Wall Street Journal. He did not offer the pricing structure of what it would charge property owners for rooms that were booked via Amazon Destinations. He did indicate that the rate would be “competitive” with sites like Expedia.com and Booking.com, which WSJ said charges between a 10-25 percent fee.

Amazon Destination also allows the user to review other travelers’ reviews of a specific booking and then to rank the location similar to how Amazon ranks products on its main marketplace. The service is currently available in the Northeast, southern California and the Pacific Northwest.

“With Amazon Destinations, hoteliers can now offer rooms at published rates, along with packaged deals and discounts. The new destinations pages feature an area description, images, maps, hotels and a list of nearby restaurants and activities,” Cook said.

Amazon’s entrance into the travel market continues the eCommerce giant’s footprint into offering more customized local services. Most recently, Amazon got into the home services side when it launched Amazon Home Services last month. As MPD Karen Webster explained in her recent column, this hyper-local marketplace will match local service providers – plumbers, fitness instructors, dog walkers and appliance repair people, for example – with Amazon customers. Earlier versions of Amazon Local Services served up a notice of available providers when relevant purchases were made on Amazon.com.

Amazon Home Services is currently available to those in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York,  Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Portland, Riverside, Tampa, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.

While Amazon’s marketplace appeals to the masses, through its introduction into Amazon Local, Amazon has the ability to serve lucrative niches including local flower delivery, local grocery delivery and deals with local restaurants.

And now, with the addition of Amazon Destinations, Amazon’s users can now book travel that’s locally based, and close enough to drive from home. And another market that gives Amazon a chance to expand its commerce footprint in places where it does not also compete – this time, with hoteliers.

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