Who dares could win in­stantly and save on their stay

THE SWITCHED-ON TOURIST

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - DAVID CAR­ROLL

THERE is only one thing peo­ple like more than sav­ing a dol­lar and that’s win­ning one. An Aus­tralian com­pany has come up with a clever way for trav­ellers to do both.

The con­cept is sim­ple and sur­pris­ingly fun. Trav­ellers make a book­ing on a ho­tel’s web­site know­ing that once they’ve locked in their rooms they get to spin a wheel and, if it stops in the right spot, one of their nights will be free. The in­ge­nious bit is that this is no ran­dom lucky draw; the ho­tel guar­an­tees that, for in­stance, ev­ery fifth room sold will be given away. That means ev­ery guest has at least a one-in-five chance of win­ning and, be­cause the process is se­quen­tial, any­one who books five nights will re­ceive one free.

For win­ners, the game also pro­vides in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, which is vi­tal, says Damien Can­telo, chief ex­ec­u­tive and co-founder of Wyn­box, the Syd­ney­based com­pany now li­cens­ing its patented Book-to-Win tech­nol­ogy to trusted travel brands.

‘‘If peo­ple have to wait to find out if they got lucky in a draw, then they are more likely to give it a miss,’’ Can­telo says. ‘‘It’s the same if the odds are too small . . . or if the prize isn’t rel­e­vant to ev­ery­one — some guests may al­ready have, say, an iPad, but ev­ery guest wants their ho­tel room for free.’’

Wyn­box isn’t the first com­pany to ex­plore the gam­i­fi­ca­tion of travel. In Bri­tain, vis­i­tors to Yipiii also can spin a raf­fle wheel in the hope of win­ning a prod­uct or deal of­fered on the web­site. Each spin costs £1 ($1.57) and there are re­stric­tions on how many times a shop­per can play. If they don’t win, they can put the money spent gam­bling to­wards the cost of the item they were af­ter or some­thing else on the site.

In the US, a far more con­tro­ver­sial model called ‘‘penny bid­ding’’ gives trav­ellers the chance to win cheap flights, with play­ers pre-buy­ing bids and then us­ing them to com­pete in brief auc­tions. It may be ex­cit­ing to take part and when the clock stops the top bid can win a bar­gain (at least in the­ory), but ev­ery­one else who places a bid loses their money. ‘‘It’s a model that can work well for one cus­tomer,’’ says Can­telo, ‘‘but for the oth­ers it doesn’t work out so well.’’

The key to Wyn­box’s model, he says, is its sim­plic­ity and trans­parency. The first travel com­pany to give it a whirl was the Ry­dges Syd­ney Air­port ho­tel, which cel­e­brated its re­cent open­ing by giv­ing guests who booked in late April and early May a one-in-five chance to win a free room. It hoped the ini­tia­tive would boost sales by up to 20 per cent, but when book­ings jumped 110 per cent com­pared with other reser­va­tion chan­nels, the ho­tel ex­tended the pro­mo­tion.

Can­telo says other properties are keen to run Book-to-Win pro­mo­tions and Wyn­box is hop­ing the con­cept will be run on mo­bile de­vices. The key thing, he says, is that gam­i­fi­ca­tion al­lows travel com­pa­nies to of­fer at­trac­tive dis­counts with­out slash­ing rates and ul­ti­mately un­der­min­ing cus­tomer per­cep­tions of a prod­uct’s value.

‘‘If I sell a room for $100 rather than the $200 I nor­mally charge, the next time I try to sell that room peo­ple will think: ‘That is a lot more than I paid be­fore. Why would I buy for dou­ble?’ . . . Once a ho­tel stops (dis­count­ing), its sales can plum­met.’’ wyn­box.com yipiii.co.uk ry­dges.com Lisa Allen is on leave.

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