WebRotation: Oyster.com for hotels, their warts and all, in candid pictures

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Oyster.com adds feet on the ground research to online hotel searches. There are innumerable hotel search engines and aggregators but all do a pretty poor job at supplying useful information on hotels beyond locations and advertised claims. The Rapid Traveler learned of Oyster in the New York Times Q&A of hotel manager/Travel Channel personality Anthony Melchiorri, “A Hotel Insider Shares Secrets.”

Q. What’s the best way to find a great hotel?

A. Go online and look at reviews. I find them to be extraordinarily accurate. Go to third-party Web sites, oyster.com or TripAdvisor.

Oyster takes quite a different tack from the reader-submitted reviews of TripAdvisor, bringing an old-fashioned sensibility for first-hand exploration. Like traditional guidebooks, Oyster staff personally visit each hotel. They specialize in accurate pictures, delivered by the bushel, and a large number of amenities that can be used as filters, including the all-important free internet and free breakfast, though none for free parking. The brands filter lacks groups such as Starwood so each of  a group’s brands must be individually selected, while the locations filter does not display area boundaries on the map.

The inevitable limitation of the Oyster approach is they can only cover a subset of hotels in a location and focus on major markets. They generally stick to mid- and high-end hotels.

Prices are computed with the typical aggregator model, pulling from numerous major booking sites.

The reviews are clear and blunt, with relevant information front and center, compare these summaries of the Residence Inn Phoenix Chandler/Fashion Center from the hotel’s own website, Kayak, and Oyster:

Oyster 1

Oyster 2

Oyster 3

Verdict: completists will not exclusively rely on Oyster, the selection is too limited, but can find value in using Oyster to narrow results from an initial blanket search on traditional hotel search engines. The pictures and reviews are superlative. Bookmark-worthy.

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