Oyster Adds Hotel Search by Image

AllThingsD:, the travel site partially owned by the Travel Channel, has launched a new search engine that lets people visually sift through thousands of hotels around the world.

Instead of searching for hotels based on a destination or maybe a few keywords, users can see photos first, after entering search terms such as “best pools,” “Miami infinity pools,” “kid-friendly,” “Hawaii cabana beach hotels” or something as simple as “workout rooms.”

Ariel Charytan, Oyster’s co-founder and chief creative officer, and Eytan Seidman, co-founder and VP of product, said it reverses the traditional travel site, which buries the photos within the editorial content. What’s even better is that photos are taken by photographers hired by Oyster, so none of them will be deceiving or doctored to make a small pool look bigger or a sandy beach more pristine.

The co-founders argue that the authenticity of the photos is critical in order for travelers to make informed decisions. If the main purpose of your trip is to sit by the pool or hit the gym between business meetings, you don’t want an out-of-commission pool or a treadmill in the janitor’s closet.

In addition to seeing photos first, Oyster will return pricing information right on the photograph. The new search engine officially launches today.

Right now, the three-year-old company is mainly focused on building the site and will evolve how it makes money over time.

There’s no advertising on now. Today, it primarily makes money when visitors book a hotel reservation on its site. Ironically, the photos sometimes talk people out of booking a place.

“That’s our value prop. You can always come to us to get the truth,” Seidman said.

In the future, they also anticipate working closely with the Travel Channel, which will send viewers to Oyster if they are inspired to travel after watching a show. The channel, which invested $7.5 million in the site back in April and is owned by Scripps Networks, will not be able to start integrating Oyster into its programming until next season, when new content starts to air.


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