Today, Oyster.com, a hotel review site and booking engine rolled out “Oyster Shots”, a new search by hotel photos feature, following a similar trend of expanded image search capabilities by Google. All images are editorially tagged and categorized, and include underlying geocoded data signals, such as GPS camera data.
In the challenging travel vertical, Oyster is hoping to add a fresh layer of editorial relevance, even if it means a slow, difficult process to appropriately tag (manually) and reference all images within its target markets.
Eytan Seidman, co-founder of Oyster, and former Bing / Microsoft Live search engineer, summarized the effort as “a real opportunity to help surface higher quality results”.
Users can use hotel image search to comparison shop by giving a realistic representation of private hotel beaches, hotel pools, and searching by hotel type (luxury vs family friendly) or other specific amenities.
For example, using Oyster Shots to search for a Maui hotel with the best pool, I can narrow down my choices to 4 or 5 “pearl” hotels (aka star ratings):
Upon browsing the images, users can compare hotel features and quality side by side, save favorites or like/dislike a photo, search images by hotel availability, and price data is shown to help make their decision in selecting a hotel for business or leisure travel.
Oyster, which sends their own independent reviewers to each hotel for unbiased reviews and editorial photography, now covers 20 cities, with nearly half a million unique photos covering over 1100 hotels.
The company is expecting to increase that database to over 100 locations in the next 12 months, increasing the image index to over 2 million images and 3500+ hotels, following a partnership with the Travel Channel.