The article was updated on July 24, 2023.
The online travel industry is booming! With the rise of technology, new opportunities have emerged to make traveling easier, cheaper, and more convenient for the consumers. At the same time, travel providers need to stay on their toes, and be able to keep up with and respond to the market requirements fast.
Mobile hotel booking apps have proven to be a winning solution for both the consumers and the providers. They are easy and convenient to use on the go, while traveling, and offer endless monetization opportunities for businesses.
According to the research conducted by Criteo, mobile devices currently account for 39% of all hotel bookings. Furthermore, almost 80% of, what is referred to as same-day hotel reservations, are made on a mobile device.
Mobile apps, in particular, drive 41% of the last minute traffic. This clearly indicates the popularity of same-day hotel booking apps.
In this article, we will take a closer look at a relatively less-known app category: last minute hotel booking apps, and share some insider tips on how to develop one for your business.
Last minute hotel booking apps make it easier to find an accommodation while traveling. Unlike the more traditional online hotel booking apps and online travel agencies (OTAs), they focus primarily on same-day reservations. As a result, they typically offer reduced prices or special deals on their unsold rooms.
Here are the top reasons why same day hotel booking apps are popular among users:
- Cheaper prices. Last minute hotel booking apps provide access to the best deals available, as they often provide discounted rates for a variety of accommodations, including luxury options.
- No need to plan ahead. People often tend not to make plans beforehand, especially young adults and couples. Thus, you can be sure to find a good deal even if you don’t book your stay in advance.
- Perfect for using on the go. Apps for last minute hotel booking come in handy when you need a place to stay right now or when your plans are disrupted.
As for business owners, building a last minute hotel booking app can be a great way to:
- optimize hotel occupancy,
- grow your customer base,
- strengthen your brand, and
- boost staff productivity.
In addition to this, such a mobile app provides you, the owner, with access to loads of data. This allows you to source valuable insights about your customers and tailor your strategy accordingly for better performance.
While the travel industry is highly-saturated with a number of OTAs, there are few apps for last minute hotel booking. Among the most popular products targeting this niche are HotelTonight and HotelQuickly.
Yet, except for the last-minute deals and special offers, they are not much different from the rest of the apps for online hotel booking like Expedia, booking.com, and Kayak.
Yet, there are several hotel apps for last minute booking that have a unique twist.
BYHOURS is a same-day hotel booking app for “microstays”. The available options include 3, 6 or 12 hour stays, which can be quite handy, for example, during long layovers. The app focuses primarily on the European market and features over 2500 hotels, including popular hotel chains such as Hyatt, AccorHotels, and Swissotel.
Recharge is another last-minute hotel booking app with a unique twist. It allows its users to book a room for as little as 30 minutes. Just enough to “recharge” – get some sleep, shower, or simply have some privacy while traveling.
The app features GPS capabilities and can show you how to get to the selected hotel. It currently operates across some luxury hotels, but only in San Francisco and New York City.
The app offers access to unsold rooms and exclusive deals for same-night stays in handpicked local accommodations. Additionally, the app features a curated list of things to do around the city and insider tips, hour-by-hour. One Night is available across a number of cities in the US.
HotelsByDay lifts the restrictions of traditional check-in/out times. Instead of daily stays, users can make morning, mid-day or afternoon reservations.
Thus, you can get a room hours before the standard check-in or find a place to wait for your flight after you check out of the hotel. The app currently offers exclusive deals from over 450 hotels across 50 cities worldwide.
As we can see, hotel booking mobile apps can have various concepts, business models, and cater to different audiences and purposes. However, there are certain best practices you will need to follow in order to build one for yourself.
Here are some steps required to develop a last minute hotel booking app:
1. Find your niche
Who will you be targeting – the travelers or hoteliers? In which country? Will your app focus on luxury accommodations or the cheapest deals? By choosing a specific niche market, you will be able to better tailor your app to the audience’s needs and increase your chances of success.
2. Test and polish the concept
Based on your market choice, you can validate your idea and improve it if needed. You can talk to your friends first or run various surveys to find the right market fit and to increase the chances of your app finding its audience.
Adding a unique value, something that will make it stand out from the competition will be advantageous in this case.
3. Choose your monetization strategy
There are many ways to make money with your mobile hotel booking app. You can charge a transaction fee, include sponsored listings and sell paid promotions, place ads, offer paid premium features, etc.
Take into account your market niche and business model when choosing a suitable monetization approach.
4. Specify the features
Here is a list of the must-have hotel booking app features:
- A user profile featuring personal info, bookings history, favorites lists, payment details, etc.
- Hotel search and filtering by city, country, date, and number of persons. You can also include additional filters like pet-friendly, breakfast, rating, or type of accommodation.
- Hotel info: description, photos, map, room types, facilities, ratings, and reviews.
- Easy booking process and payments.
- Push notifications for upcoming bookings, discounts, and special offers.
- In-app messaging so that users can instantly contact the hotel if needed.
- Various add-ons and integrations, for example, integration with the most popular occupancy management systems at the hotels, accounting or CRM software.
On top of that, you can add additional features to make your app a bit more unique.
- Geolocation capabilities so that users can receive directions to the hotel they reserved.
- Personalization features: tailored suggestions based on the user’s location or preferences from the previous bookings. For example, if a user has a pet and/or has previously shown interest in pet-friendly accommodations, the app can put the matching hotels higher in the search results.
- In-app instant messaging (human-to-human) or AI concierge can be a valuable addition to your offering, helping to address any users problems and offering 24/7 support.
- The ability to check the menu of the hotel’s restaurant and place an order to be delivered to the room, or to be served at a specific table or at a specific time. The same can also be applicable to various room service requests, e.g. cleaning, laundry, and minibar refills.
- Third-party integrations to grant users the ability to call the reception directly within the app for any issues or requests.
- In-built taxi booking service could also help users schedule a pickup time and get notified once the car arrives. In this case, the notifications will be pushed from the hotel manager app, and not from the driver app directly.
- Voice search can be a viable alternative to the traditional hotel search. All you have to do is say “I want to book a hotel in that location on that date” and the app will show you the available results.
- Virtual reality that can provide users with a chance to see the hotel, walk around the rooms, feel the atmosphere, and get a 360 degree experience prior to placing the reservation. People will be more likely to book a room if they can get a good feel for how it will be to stay there.
- Loyalty program, including discounts, special offers, bonuses, and promo codes.
5. Pay attention to the UX
One of the basic principles of a hotel booking application design is to make your hotel booking app easy to navigate, lightweight, and fast. The user flow should be intuitive and straightforward and the booking process – as simple as possible.
Consider this: Expedia was able to make an additional $12 million in revenue by removing a single field in their booking form.
6. Put it into code
As most travel solutions tend to be quite feature-rich, it makes perfect sense to focus on building a minimum viable product (MVP) first. It might take months of hard work (and thousands of dollars) to get your own hotel booking app on the market. Isn’t it better to make sure the battle is worth the blood?
Thus, we always recommend starting with an MVP to test out your assumption and to gain a solid understanding of how to make it better.
7. Launch and promote your app
Building your application is only half the battle. Once it is ready (or even well on its way), you need to figure out how to get it in front of your potential users. To start with, publish your app on the App Store and Google Play.
Despite certain skepticism caused by the rise of last minute hotel booking apps, the market remains active. Yet, instead of competing with the travel industry giants, like Expedia, startups tend to target niche markets and focus on their unique value proposition.
Yet, an outstanding idea won’t suffice if you want to become a serious competitor in the eyes of the existing market players. You also have to ensure its excellent implementation.
How to get started?
The product discovery phase is the best first step you can take to lay a solid foundation for the development of your app. It includes a functional specification, UX/UI design, and a visual prototype that will give you a clear vision of the end product. On average, this phase takes 4-6 weeks.
The product discovery phase can help you:
- define a full scope of work and develop a roadmap for the project
- set a realistic budget for your MVP and plan your resources
- test the waters with your audience using a visual prototype
- craft a convincing investment pitch
- get to know your team
Our team at Eastern Peak has extensive experience building marketplace apps across a number of domains, including travel and hotel booking. This expertise helps us provide end-to-end services building software products for startups and Fortune 100 companies alike.
Request a free consultation on how to build a successful hotel booking application now. To get expert advice, contact our sales team using this form.