Israeli Start-Up Revolutionizes the Global Online Booking Scene Despite Pandemic

social distancing and travel bans—has been devastating for the international tourism industry

 (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The worldwide coronavirus crisis—replete with its lockdowns, social distancing and travel bans—has been devastating for the international tourism industry, with experts estimating that global tourism revenues will be 34.7% lower in 2020 relative to 2019. Under those circumstances it might strike some people as counterintuitive to be talking about a new hotel booking app at the height of the current crisis. But Ofer Helfman, the founder and CEO of the Israeli-developed app called As You Stay, believes the lull in international travel and bookings is a perfect opportunity to introduce more travelers to the app and its unique features, which are beneficial to hotel guests and managers alike.

First launched in 2016, As You Stay was designed to revolutionize the way people book hotel rooms. It allows them to choose their own check-in and check-out times down to the hour, and to pay only for the relative part of the day that they spend the hotel. In its initial stages, the app was first introduced for use in major hotel chains across the United States, such as Hilton and Marriot, as well as for a selection of boutique properties. In the time since its inception, the app has become increasingly popular worldwide. It now offers its members access to over 400,000 hotels on every continent thanks to a collaboration agreement it signed last year with major hotel suppliers, including Booking.com.

Helfman, who formerly worked as a hotel-chain executive, explained in a recent interview that the app was born from his experience on both sides of that professional divide. “Every one of us has gone through the frustration of arriving after a ten or eleven-hour flight, begging for the room you’ve reserved only to be informed that you’ll have to wait and store your luggage in the meantime.” Helfman explained that what As You Stay has done is to break down “the per-nights reservation system into the finer resolution of per-hour reservations.” When making a reservation through that platform—either on its website or using its app—guests specify the times of their arrival and departure, allowing people to tailor their stay to suit their personal schedule.

While the reason why As You Stay is beneficial to the traveler may be obvious, Helfman’s experience as a hotelier gave him the professional insight to see how hotels stand to benefit from the arrangement as well. The concentration of check-outs in the morning and check-ins in the afternoons creates what he describes as a “bottleneck.” This can be quite taxing on housekeeping staff, often resulting in rushed and therefore inadequate cleaning prior to the arrival of the next guest. Guests who book with As You Stay inform the hotel in advance of the precise time of their arrival. If the hotel knows the guest is only going to arrive at 9:00 PM, it can plan its cleaning schedule and personnel to achieve the optimal results for ensuring customer satisfaction, while also streamlining operational costs.

How Does As You Stay Work?

Helfman explained the mechanics of the operation: “We buy the rooms in bulk and divide up the hours of their availability for our customers, while our system optimizes the results provided base on each unique hourly search."

The challenge for As You Stay begins with customers who want to check in early in the morning and check out late in the evening. That is where two other factors come into play. The first is the company's sophisticated algorithm that is able to find the best solution for the customer while remaining profitable. The second is the relationship cultivated with the hotels thanks to the down-to-the-hour information about rooms booked through the app. This information allows them to have more rooms available at a given time and operate the hotel more efficiently. “It’s a win-win situation,” said Helfman. “We give travelers the best deals for their needs while developing solid relationships with the hotels and helping them provide better service.”

Waiting in the hotel lobby to check in has always been odious to travelers. Now in the current coronavirus era of social distancing and strict hygiene, the flexibility and precision provided by As You Stay become even more valuable to hoteliers and guests. They no longer forced to wait in a crowded lobby filled with other travelers similarly waiting for their rooms.

Helfman founded As You Stay with the support of several pre-seed investors from the hotel industry. Gil Smolinski of NGN Partners came on board as an investor a short time thereafter. As a frequent business traveler, Smolinski said he was all too familiar with the problems that stem from hotels’ strict timetables. “I was tired of having to leave my luggage in a storage room because my room wasn’t ready yet, when all I wanted to do was take a shower after a long trip,” Smolinksi said. “I knew that there had to be a better and more convenient way, and As You Stay provided precisely that solution.”

As You Stay has received glowing reviews from prominent travel gurus, such As You Stay, Travel & Leisure magazine, and Johnny Jet. After finalizing the collaboration agreements in 2019, As You Stay relaunched its website and app with an improved algorithm and technology, offering booking services for more than 400,000 hotels worldwide.

Humbly painting his breakthrough app as a supposedly self-evident development, Helfman commented: “If airlines and car rental services are able to offer services by the hour, then why should hotels remain stuck in the past?” Furthermore, the more we use our “Pay As You Stay” model the faster will help hotels to adopt and fix this industry glitch once and for all!