Adam Hollander, Founder & CEO of CityKey, worked in hotel operations and development for a number of years before coming back to school to pursue an MBA at USC Marshall School of Business, and embark on an entrepreneurial journey to create a savvy digital solution for hotels and guests alike.

Incredibly passionate about his startup, Hollander explained the current issues facing the hospitality industry and the fragmented market trip-planning consumers face when searching for exciting activities to do once they arrive at their destination.

"There's three parts of travel: how you get there, where you stay, and what you do," Hollander explained, “the first two have really been figured out by online travel agents like Expedia, and Priceline.”

However, making it simple for people to find and plan local activities is a surprisingly unanswered issue.

Today, trip planners have to scour countless sources to find relevant and trusted advice on a multitude of activities at various locations.

“It’s a push strategy,” Hollander argues, “but there are diminishing returns to the scale of that—right now, the activity space is in a land-grab where online travel sites like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor provide as much as possible, taking on an all-things-to-all-people approach.”

The good news?

“Hotels have a captive audience,” Hollander said.

CityKey addresses ongoing problems on both sides of the market. As a B2B/B2C business, CityKey offers a digital marketing platform solution for hotels looking to improve the guest experience outside of their walls.

In a world where guests value discoverability and credibility, CityKey offers hotels a means to leverage the power of brand associations by publishing activities of quality local vendors to offer guests curated activity recommendations on a beautifully designed interface.

To guests, CityKey appears as an integrated microsite on a hotel’s website. To hotel management, it’s a full-suite, customizable content cloud and dashboard. Hotels receive weekly analytics reports with actionable insights to help improve site usage, and to understand and quantify guest preferences.

"CityKey will be a digital marketing company for hotels that has its own proprietary software platform, with a number of features that will help hotels learn about their guests and turn referrals into revenue," Hollander beamed.

How CityKey Was Born

For Hollander, the concept for CityKey arose during his time working on distressed asset properties alongside the VP of Development for MetWest Ventures, a private equity firm with a the real estate fund and a hotel management subsidiary that acquired properties to renovate and operate.

On one particular project, a ski resort in Vermont, Hollander was asked to go out to the property and come up with some ideas to build a unique story around the property that could drive awareness and differentiate it from the competition..

After doing an action/adventure photo shoot with the company to improve its online image, Hollander immediately noticed a disconnect between the handful of offerings that guests saw online and the multitude of amazing experiences that were truly within arms reach.

Suddenly, Adam had an epiphany.

"Why is it that hotels don't market the most important part of travel--what to do once you get there?" Adam thought. "Also, why don't they better monetize the referral business like the online travel agencies?"

That's what really gave rise to the idea. From a hotel perspective, Hollander sought to address how hotels could better market a holistic experience to their guests, and drive referral business that they can track to better understand guest preferences.  Next, Adam began planning other ways to monetize the business, how to scale it, and build it into a technology product.

"That was the genesis of how we came to be," Adam said.

Helping Hollander bring his concept to market is Blackstone LaunchPad at USC, a one-stop source of co-curricular entrepreneurial education, counseling and support for students and alumni that augments and enhances the existing entrepreneurial programs at the university, in partnership with USC Annenberg Innovation Lab.

Hollander has already validated his proof of concept with the microsite he built for the ski resort in Vermont.

Some people really like the whimsical aspect of travelling, but in Hollander’s experience, it’s better to give guests access to all the information they might need in case they get bored of wandering the streets and are ready to stand on the shoulders of giants who know the best spots in town like the back of their hand.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates on CityKey.