My hotel customers may grit their teeth when they read this; however, while I have memberships at almost every hotel I am partial to Starwood Hotels. Ok, there, I said it. I do stay at all the others because I’m side by side with my licensing guys and they have their preferences; but, my lonely nights on the road are spent in a Starwood Hotels. Mostly because of the W Hotels brand. Pimp. Well, Starwood just launched 11 of their web sites using Bing Maps for Enterprise and the sites are as pimped out as I feel when I stay at one of their W Hotels.
When searching for hotels from their home page, just enter a city, state and or country name plus optionally dates and you’ll be sent to a hotel listing page. Atop the listing page you’ll see a link for “View hotels on a Map”.” This grabs all the results from the list and drops them onto a Bing Map. Each hotel is pinned to the map with a custom rollover providing additional information about the hotel including the name (with link to additional details page), address, and “Book Now” – a great idea since if you’re looking at the hotel you might want to just go ahead and finish the transaction. Also, the rollover provides directions and the ability to zoom to predefined “1-click” zoom levels – street, city and region.
As you move the map, the locations on the map will refresh – my favorite feature. This keeps me from having to manually re-query the map by providing information like postal code or city name – a pain in the butt for areas I have no idea about. You can increase the number of search results per page – 5, 10, 15, 20 or all; and, you can sort the results by relevance, distance (from the center point) or alphabetically by hotel name. Also, notice the pushpin clustering feature (a native feature of the API). When pins get too close (such as where the 3, 4 and 9 are in the above image) they change the pin to represent multiple pins in a single location – much better than stacking them and wondering where the missing hotel numbers are. Custom navigation makes for a suitable accompaniment to the design. Aerial and Bird’s Eye photos are obviously available from this navigation, plus Starwood added the traffic feature in the case that you want to see the flow of traffic around a certain hotel at a certain time. A nice touch. Now, here’s something different. Starwood Hotels added the ability to “Add a location” to the map. This means you can enter any kind of address or place name (such as Central Park) to the map and it will be denoted with an arrow icon. This is there to help you find a hotel around the place you actually care to be near – a great visual tool for the travel planner.
In addition to the base hotel search, you’ll find maps in other places on the sites. At the top of every hotel landing page where an address exists, you’ll now find a link to a map. From that link you get to explore the area which Starwood provides a map-based interface into the commercial business listings native to the Bing Maps platform. You can also “Add a location” from here or get directions to the point of interest. Getting directions is made simple and provides a printer-friendly option.
And, finally, for those of you visiting (or in) China, you can see that Starwood has added our Chinese maps (from DITU which has an API of their own) for their locations in China in the local language.
They leveraged quite a bit of the Bing Maps platform. Well done!