Standard International, which owns the Standard hotel chain as well as boutique properties on New York’s High Line and London’s King Cross, is launching a recommendations-based app.
Described as “the first social travel agency," Benny (from the phrase “friends with benefits”) would allow people to recommend rooms to friends at the best rate, while also earning a commission.
“We are launching a model that will be at the intersection of social media, the gig economy and travel,” Amar Lalvani, Standard International’s chief executive, told the Financial Times. “The way Airbnb made everybody a host and Uber made everyone a driver, we are going to develop a system that makes everybody a travel agent.”
He added that the project has received an investment from SWaN and Legend Venture Partners, which focuses on consumer businesses “primed for disruption." He did not reveal the amount of funding received. Benny is slated to launch in October.
In addition to helping customers save money, the app also aims to take on online booking sites such as Expedia and Orbitz, which Lalvani blames for slashing hoteliers’ profitability and triggering industry consolidation.
“No one has linked these things together yet,” Lalvani said. “Online travel agents’ margins are significant, and this is a way to play in that space.”
The Benny app is the latest tech achievement for the company, which also announced plans on Wednesday (Aug. 14) for new properties. Standard will open its seventh hotel in the Maldives by October and plans to open another 15 in cities including Chicago, Paris, Jakarta and Melbourne. In London, the company renovated the former Camden Town Hall Annex as its flagship property, which opened last month. Lalvani said most of the firm's expansion will be in Asia, where 60 percent of the world’s millennials are based.