John Hart knows hotels. A former Marriot executive, Hart left the hotel business in 2012 to develop an online hotel booking platform called StaySmarter. And over the past year, he has taken his expertise in hotels to the trucking community.
StaySmarter for Truckers allows truck drivers to find hotels that are pet friendly and have parking for their trucks, to search all hotel brands, and take advantage of special rates, such as AAA and AARP.
When Hart created StaySmarter, his initial focus was predominantly on frequent travelers, not necessarily truckers, he told Fleet Owner. But over time, he said he began to recognize truckers as frequent travelers and realized they needed a designated hotel-booking tool.
“We thought, ‘Wow, this is a big market,’” Hart explained. “And when we looked at existing services out there for truckers, we thought, ‘This is embarrassing.’ We felt truckers were ignored. Clearly they’re not getting the attention they need for the role they play in the economy.”
According to StaySmarter’s data, about 10,000 hotels in the U.S. and Canada have trucker-friendly parking. Hart mentioned that his platform for truckers shows all hotel chains that accommodate drivers and their trucks. He also explained that rates, available discounts, and any other information truck drivers would need to know about booking a room are all on the one interface.
The key benefits for truckers, according to Hart, are:
Cost. Hart says the StaySmarter platform is free and ad free, offers the same prices as the hotels, allows truckers to pay after their stay, and earn points every hotel rewards program – something he says no one else offers.
Efficiency. Hart points out the app works on every device (PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone) on every operating system (Windows, Android, Apple). Booking is done directly through the site, and allows user to comparison shop, he added.
It’s ‘smarter.’ Hart noted that users can get a hotel confirmation number, cancel with one click (no phone call or email required), and call the hotel or StaySmarter directly if needed.
“We’re hotel experts, not truck experts,” Hart told Fleet Owner. “We were surprised by how bad the experience was for truckers to book hotels. We looked at all of the websites and tools. Many don’t provide access to hotel data, and if they do, it’s simply location data. When booking services exist, they are slow, cost money, offer questionable deals, and lack features, data, and even clear user interfaces. It is a mess. Yet truckers are an important segment of travelers. They need to book hotel rooms fast.”
For Hart, the overall impetus behind StaySmarter is that he believes companies like Priceline and Expedia are hurting hotels and the consumer. And, as a hotel expert, he thought he could do better.
In the future, Hart said, the folks at StaySmarter expect to add data sets for truck stops and rest stops to the trucking platform. As developments to the platform pick up, Hart encourages feedback from the industry. The company, he added, is also in the process of setting up incentives for fleet owners and independent owner-operators.