Travel Channel invests $7.5 million in Oyster

Ronny Kerr · April 26, 2011 · Short URL:

Travel site provides professional reviews of hotels, receives cut of reservations

Hotel information and search site announced Tuesday that it has received a $7.5 million investment from The Travel Channel, marking a new partnership that brings Oyster content to the TV network.

The startup has so far raised $20.4 million across three rounds from Bain Capital Ventures and Accelerator Ventures.

Founded in 2008 and based out of New York, Oyster secretly sends investigators to visit hotels in person, so they can snap photos and write up professional reviews of their experience there. Besides just a number rating (out of a possible five pearls, not stars), hotel reviews on Oyster come with a short list of pros and cons, brief but informative descriptions, a gallery sometimes featuring hundreds of photos and more.

Oyster doesn’t yet serve all locations, but it’s working toward that goal. Today, the service is available for hotels located in several popular domestic and international destinations like New York, San Francisco, and the Bahamas.

Because the service provided by Oyster requires sending real people to real places, one can imagine that scaling will take a lot longer than it would to simply crowdsource reviews, the more obvious route for travel companies. But Oyster would argue that its professional reviews are more substantial and more credible.

If customers book their hotel through Oyster, the startup receives a cut of the reservation. And that’s just the thing the Travel Channel is after: a source of income.

There’s a world of money to be made beyond simply advertising and cable subscriptions, especially for a content provider like the Travel Channel, which likely inspires droves of viewers to visit new places (and spend their cash there). With content from Oyster now shared on the Channel’s TV network and website, that cash can now be shared among the parties influencing its spending.

The Travel Channel is owned by Scripps Networks, which serves up other niche programming like HGTV (home and lifestyle) and the Food Network.

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