The new platform, called Amazon Destinations, lists hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfast spots in the Northeast, southern California and the Pacific Northwest.
About 150 properties are posting rooms on the Amazon site, according to a person familiar with the matter. The listings mainly consist of smaller, independent properties and hotel operators, although there are a few branded hotels, such as the Best Western Plus Royal Oak Hotel in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Amazon has been experimenting with hotel bookings since 2012, when it began posting up to 100 deeply discounted hotel deals around the U.S. at any given time. The listings were mostly from hoteliers looking to fill excess inventory.
The new service allows hotel owners more flexibility in terms of price, including listing rooms at regular rates, not just package deals or other deep discounts. The hotels also are featured more prominently on their own Amazon page, rather than being mixed in with the site’s various other travel deals.
Amazon has been low-key about the launch. The site went live shortly before midnight Seattle time on Monday, and Amazon didn’t prepare a formal news release.
Analysts say the move reflects Amazon’s growing interest in the lucrative travel market.
In 2014, travel and tourism spending totaled $458 billion in the U.S. alone, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The two biggest online travel agents, ExpediaInc. and Booking.com, a unit of Priceline Group Inc., have become global players. Booking.com says it lists about 590,000 hotels and other accommodations, while Expedia says it has 435,000 properties in its site.
The online travel industry has been consolidating to these two major players. Expedia in February announced it was acquiring Orbitz Worldwide Inc. for about $1.3 billion.
Amazon, by contrast, is a bit player in the hotel-reservation market. But some hotel owners suggested that with its heavy user traffic, the online retail giant would have certain advantages if it chose to scale up quickly.
“Amazon changes the game a lot,” said Bashar Wali, president of boutique hotel operator Provenance Hotels, which is listing rooms on Amazon for seven of its properties. “It has an intimate knowledge of its customer’s spending habits and preferences. That could allow us to collaborate with them on special offers that could be well-targeted.”
Amazon spokesman Tom Cook declined to say what Amazon was charging the hotel owners for rooms booked through its service, but he said it would be competitive with the major online travel agents. Those services typically charge commissions between 10% and 25%.
Mr. Cook said the site’s main appeal would be to locals from these areas who were looking for short getaways, an area Amazon believes has been underserved by other hotel sites.
“These are all handpicked properties that have been visited by someone at Amazon to make sure they meet our quality,” he said.
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