Tingo, a new travel site that launched this morning, expects to be a game changer in the way customers book hotels. Parent company Smarter Travel Media says Tingo is the first site to automatically rebook a hotel reservation if the price drops, then refund the difference between the original prepaid rate and the final rate at check-out.
Tingo (the name derives from travel and bingo) is not the first site to offer a refund if the rate drops. Orbitz, for example, has a Price Assurance policy, but it requires that another Orbitz customer book the same room type at the same hotel on the same travel dates at a lesser rate. Not so with Tingo. According to the company, if the rate for your reservation drops, you qualify for a refund, credited to your charge card after you have checked out of the hotel, regardless of whether another traveler has also booked the lower rate.
One potential source of complaint is that customers must prepay the hotel charge at the time of booking. But George Hobica of sister site AirfareWatchdog.com dismisses that as a concern. "You prepay for airfare," he says. "You prepay a lot of things. But with Tingo you can still cancel and get your money back up until the time of the hotel's own cancellation policy."
During three months of beta testing, Tingo found lower rates for about one of every three sample bookings, according to the company. During testing for hotels in major U.S. cities in February, the company said average prices dropped from $25 per night in Orlando to $46 per night in New York.
"The nice thing about this is that the customer doesn't have to do anything," says Hobica. "You just book the room and Tingo automatically checks for lower rates and issues you a refund if it finds them."
Tingo is powered by Expedia. No membership or fees are required.
An interesting side note for travel wonks: Smarter Travel Media hasn't presented Tingo to the hotel industry at large, so the industry's response to the new site isn't known. But AutoSlash.com attempted a similar business plan for car-rentals a few years ago with nearly disastrous consequences for the start-up venture because of industry push-back. That conflict might have led to the demise of the nascent site, but relations with the industry gradually improved, and AutoSlash is still a going, and by all accounts profitable, concern.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.