How to Build a Successful Travel App like and Airbnb

travel app like booking and airbnb

The world is ready to travel again, and do you know what’s the first thing people pull out when they need to travel? Their phones.

Mobile apps are the first frontier of every travel plan. Whether it is to decide where you want to go, book tickets, find the right hotels, or even make a travel itinerary, the first best buddy of every travel plan is a mobile phone. The 2018 Digital Traveller Survey of 16,000 travellers from 25 countries reveals some interesting findings:

  • Almost 50% of travellers have booked and paid for the entire or a part of their trip through their smartphone.
  • 90% of travellers have a moibile app while at their destination to make their life easier.
  • On average, at least 10-12 apps are used by a traveller through the course of one trip, from the searching to the returning phase.

With the right mobile app, you have a stronghold on a large and highly engaged market.

  • Revenue in the Travel & Tourism market is projected to reach US$716.80bn in 2022
  • Global international tourist arrivals more than doubled (+130%) in January 2022 compared to 2021, and almost tripled in January to July 2022 (+172%)
  • Online travel bookings peaked at $755 billion in 2019, before declining 46% to $403 billion in 2020. In 2021, travel bookings increased to $613 billion, though still below 2019 figures. Total revenue generated by travel apps worldwide was $300 million in 2021, and is expected to go higher than $500 million in 2022.

That’s how big the travel and tourism market is. And all these people are looking at their phones for easy solutions to all their travel related problems. Developing a travel app that helps people plan delightful travel experiences and easily fulfill them can help you build a sustainable and highly profitable business model. Much like some of the most successful companies of our time have done.

Airbnb,, Expedia, Trivago, MakeMyTrip, Travelzoo, and many more, started off in someone’s living room, with a laptop and an idea. Today, these are all billion dollar businesses with worldwide recognition. Check out the worldwide marketshare of eager tech savvy travellers these apps have today:

worldwide marketshare


online booking app revenues


If you aspire to be in this billion dollar club too, now is a great time to develop a travel app. In this feature, we shall discuss how you can build a travel app that can not only provide travelers great experiences, but also compete with current travel startups that have already made themselves big in this business.

Sure it may look like everything that can be done is already done and that travel apps market is highly competitive. However, in the grand scheme of things, mobile travel apps just about broken the ground and there’s really no end to how much innovation can be done. With a comprehensive understanding of the travel economy, traveler behaviour, and an eye for detail, you can help users find much grander travel experiences, or help them save more money while travelling. You can help users discover places they didn’t even know but are actually perfect for them. You can coordinate shared travel experiences that save money and foster camaraderie. There’s just so much to do in this market, that we might as well just jump in.

What are travel apps?

Any mobile apps that help people with their travel can be categorised as travel apps. This truly encompasses a large gamut of mobile apps. A travel app can do any or many of these things:

  • Help book travel tickets be it Airline tickets, bus, train, car, taxi, or even a two-wheeler. Are you picturing a pretty red Vespa traipsing the rolling vineyards of France? Yep, there’s an app for that.
  • Help find suitable accommodation – hotels, homestays, serviced apartments, hostels, camps, floating houseboats, you name it.
  • Make customised travel plans, build itinerary that suits your timeline and budget, suggest places to see and stay at based on your preferences.
  • Find best places to try local cuisine or find best restaurants/cafés to try, with reviews and ratings from other travelers.
  • Help connect you to local guides, translators, etc.
  • Any other travel related services like foreign exchange, expense tracking, miles tracking, and more.

Travellers are eager to adopt technology like travel apps

In a statement to PR Newswire, Gordon Wilson, CEO of Travelport, said – “The travel industry has always been about new experiences, and adopted new technologies early.”

  • Most travelers (81% business and 75% leisure) surveyed say that they would happily use biometric scanning to reduce waiting time in security lines.
  • 90% said they were happy to share personal data to speed through customs and immigration
  • Over two-thirds of travelers think digital boarding passes make travel so much easier
  • Almost half of all respondents, both leisure (47%) and business (55%), think the ability to pay using Apple/Android pay (Touch ID) is important or very important
  • Over half of business travelers asked said they wanted to be able to check in to their hotel via an app, rather than at a reception desk. 50% also wanted to use a digital room key to unlock their hotel room door from their phone.

Clearly, there is a large demand for technological innovation in the travel industry and mobile apps are a big part of the deal. Developing a travel app could be your ‘ticket’ to success.

What type of travel apps can you build?

As you can tell, travel apps cover a lot of ground and give you plenty to work with. Therefore, you could choose to build an app that does some or many of these things. You could build an app exclusively dedicated to finding and booking the perfect hotels in an area complete with reviews and ratings from previous travellers and help new travellers make proper decisions about their stay in a completely new place.

Or you could choose to build an app that helps travellers decide where they wish to go and what they wish to see. Beauty of the travel landscape in today’s day and age is that people are increasingly willing to try new places and new experiences. However, finding these new experiences is easier said than done. People today are extremely selective about where they spend their money and time. Some people are strongly into adventure tourism complete with activities like bungee jumping, rock climbing, hiking, trekking, or simply living in a tent with subzero temperatures outside. Others on the other hand would like to find places that offer a serene escape from crowded city‘s. They just wish to be surrounded by nature and untouched by noises, traffic, pollution, or simply chattering people. Mobile apps have the ability to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and find out the deepest interests, preferences, and passions of people and use this information to give them the best travelling options.

You could also build apps that are more technical in nature such as calculating travel expenses, building itineraries, or helping people perform foreign currency exchange easily and swiftly. Though slightly less romantic, these parts of travel are extremely important and making them convenient using a mobile app could greatly help travellers and hence, garner quite the fan following.

How do travel apps make money?

When you decide to put down a ton of money into building an app, the most important aspect you want to think about is how this app is going to make money.

There are actually many different ways in which travel apps and mobile travel apps can make money. Sponsorship from hotels, ad revenues, affiliate marketing, and many other ways exist to ensure mobile travel apps can earn a steady stream of income.

Millions of travellers look for hotels online every month. An app could earn a commission every time a user books a hotel using said app. Or, you could earn ad revenue from all the hotels or tourist services that wish to advertise on your app.

So following are the most popular app monetisation models that work perfectly for travel apps.

  • Bookings and reservations
  • Sponsored places
  • Premium listings
  • In-app ads
  • Affiliate programs
  • Commission

Innovation in travel apps

There is boundless scope of innovation in travel apps and mobile technology can truly churn out something new and unseen that your users will love.

Do you identify with the trepidation of booking a hotel? Will it be as beautiful in person as it looks in the pictures? Is food and service good? Will it be well situated and easily connected to all the places you wish to visit? There are so many questions that online pictures cannot answer satisfactorily. Ratings and reviews too can sometimes be perplexing.

Creating an app that makes this process easier would certainly be a massive pull for travellers. You could build a database of pictures clicked by previous guests that. You could develop a VR tour of the hotel to help users decide.

Using AI and ML to build customized itineraries is another area with far-reaching applications.

The aforementioned Travelport survey also observed that though 9 out of 10 travellers are using an app, and that though users are using as many as 10-12 apps per trip, only about a fifth of travellers are currently using itinerary management tools. This here is a massive opportunity.

Every time a user performs an internet search for a particular destination, they are overwhelmed with information on places to see and things to do. Yet, not all these places are ideal for everyone. People travelling with young children or older parents have very different travel plans from say millennials or Gen Z travellers. There are those who don’t want to trek, instead want a quiet hilltop that’s accessible by car. Trust me, it’s hard to find information like that, I’ve tried.

Building a travel app that works like online dating apps – asking users a set of questions and recommending places based on answers would be a great hit among travellers.

Similar ways to innovate in travel apps and provide users delightful experiences are only limited by your imagination, and with the right development team, you can truly tap into this extremely fertile market.


People love to travel and seek new experiences. Travelling has always been about embracing new technologies and that’s what travel apps are. In the last few years, travel apps have seen record growth and astounding revenues, thanks to the burgeoning travel economy.

With the right app developers and a unique vision, you can develop a travel app that helps travellers make their journeys and stays more convenient, quick, and delightful. There are hundreds of services that can be made easy with apps and billions of travellers who are eagerly waiting for such mobile friendly services. So get in touch with us today and let’s help you develop that fantastic new travel app.

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