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Save time and money on group hotel bookings with Groople

SmarterTravel

Families in need of multiple hotel rooms for reunions, weddings, or other special occasions now have a new option for booking rooms that can simplify the planning process and help cut accommodations costs. Groople, a new travel-booking site designed specifically for group travel, allows you book four or more hotel rooms at once and take advantage of specially negotiated group pricing. Before Groople, no other major travel site had the capability to book more than three rooms at a time, meaning that group travel planners had to call individual properties themselves to make arrangements.

To find out how this site could help families, we spoke with Groople CEO David Loy. We learned that the site can indeed help you to get better rates quickly and offers other services that can ease the process of planning a group hotel stay.

According to Loy, Groople was formed by 25 executives from a variety of travel companies, including American Airlines, Trip.com, and Marriott. “We wanted to fill the void on the Internet for group travel booking,” says Loy. The company worked with hotel chains and individual properties to negotiate group rates that would be available online to the consumer. Now up and running, the site allows you to shop for group rates at about 57,000 hotels in the U.S. and several foreign countries, including Canada, Mexico, and the U.K.

The site’s search engine is similar to other hotel booking sites, except that you can search for an unlimited number of rooms. When results are displayed, some hotels list specific prices, called real-time rates, while others require that you submit an online price quote request. These requests are then sent to a Groople booking office, where staff members contact the property to work out a price. A response is promised within 48 to 72 hours.

We tried searching for properties in many locations and found numerous options in major cities. However, some smaller cities and regions offered few or no hotel options. Also, most hotels did not display real-time rates.

To see if the site really provided savings, we tested rates for eight-room bookings at five hotels in major U.S. cities. Of these, we were able to price four hotels with real-time rates. For one property that did not have real-time rates, the Hilton Grand Vacations Club Las Vegas, we used the site’s quote request system, and received a price quote through e-mail within an hour. We then compared these rates with prices for individual rooms booked through the hotel’s own website. In each case, Groople offered the lowest rate, with savings ranging from $2 to $40 per room per night.

The sample rates we found, not including taxes, are:

Hotel Hotel rate Groople rate Savings per room
Alexis Inn and Suites Nashville $79 $50 $29
Comfort Inn, Los Angeles $62 $60 $2
The Hotel Lawrence, Dallas $88 $79 $9
Fairfield Inn Miami $120 $85 $35
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Las Vegas $259 $219 $40

Rates are based on stays from February 25 to 27, 2005. Hotel rates were obtained through the individual hotels’ websites on November 18, 2004.

According to Loy, group rates tend to go down the more rooms you book. “You can book any amount of rooms on Groople, but the prices start to get really good with 10 or more rooms.”

Loy also says that when the number of rooms requested surpasses a certain threshold, Groople’s booking office will automatically contact the properties that interest you to work out the best price. “Recently, for a group that needed about 50 rooms, we were able to get the group rate of $240 per night reduced to $160,” says Loy. Although Groople’s staff can’t guarantee that they will find the lowest available price, Loy says, “most likely we will [get the best price].”

Once a booking is made, Groople offers additional services. For example, rather than having to pay for all rooms up front, individual family members can arrange to pay for their own room through the site. Also, individuals can arrange for separate check-in and checkout times and other special requests. The site’s booking desk can also help arrange conference room rentals, food, and other requirements for your family gathering. It’s working on adding other services for early next year.

Groople is still a work-in-progress. But, with no service fee to pay and no need to make any phone calls, it seems like a good place to start shopping for group hotel deals. Visit the site at Groople.com. Or, if you wish, you can call the Groople booking desk at 888-447-6675.

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