The last time you made travel plans, you probably checked out hotels on your smartphone, didn’t you? Most people do. Hotels bookings on mobile have grown 3 to 10 times faster than on desktop in various countries across the world. The statistics only make sense when you think that smartphones have become the go-to place for almost all our needs from shopping to banking to ordering food. How can travel and hospitality stay behind, especially in the wake of tech startups like Airbnb taking the hotel industry by storm?
For anyone even remotely associated with the travel and hospitality sector, now is the right time to build an app. The modern traveler is increasingly in search of comfortable hotel stays. The millennials are traveling more, leading to much higher hotel bookings than ever. At the same time, these millennial travelers are careful about spending their hard earned money in the most efficient way, which means that they’ll browse dozens of sites, look for the best deals, ensure that the hotel has everything they need and comb through online reviews before booking a hotel. Needless to say that most of this will be done on mobile which means that the best online experiences will obviously benefit.
Developing a mobile app is the best way to grab a substantial share of the rising travel and hospitality pie. People are traveling extensively and are looking for the best experiences. If you can provide them a good experience, there is plenty of room to grow. Let’s take a look at the main types of apps that can be developed in the travel and hotel booking niche.
1. Online Traveling Agencies or OTA
Wondering what that is? Expedia, Priceline, Bookings.com and Travelocity are just a few examples. Back home in India, we have MakeMyTrip, GoIbibo and others. These companies fall under the category of Online Travelling Agencies or OTAs that cater to all travel needs including all means of transport, hotel stays, catering and other subsidiaries like hotel reviews, bumper discounts and attractive last minute deals.
Among all the different kinds of apps and services in hotel booking industry, OTA’s happen to be the highest grosser. In fact, OTAs’ enjoy a whopping 45% share of all hotel bookings on mobile as of 2018. No standalone hotel chain or supplier comes close to that. This is primarily because these OTAs offer a complete package to travelers, along with the greatest deals.
2. Hotel Booking Aggregators
Savvy tech entrepreneurs who needn’t necessarily have any experience in the hotel industry, have made a mighty buck by developing websites and apps that allow travelers to compare various hotels and choose the best deal. Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, HotelTonight and Google Hotel Finder are a few examples. These kinds of apps are used extensively by travelers and hence, ad revenue is big. If you can bring in more first-hand reviews, better insights, increased transparency and truly help customers make the best decisions, you can build a massive business around an aggregator app. TripAdvisor made over $1.5 billion in 2017.
3. Hotel Apps
Hotels can have their own apps to run personalized marketing campaigns to attract more guests. All the major hotel chains like Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt and Ritz Carlton have their own web and mobile applications. Smaller hotels too can use apps to not only increase their reach and attract more customers but also provide better service to current customers, thus creating better reviews which in turn bolster the hotel’s reputation and garner better reviews to further improve their online presence. In fact this is an area currently being challenged by newcomer apps in the OTA categories, but that only leaves room for improvement that you can bridge with your unique value propositions.
Also, it’s worth noting that if you have an app for your hotel chain, the kind of data that the app can generate is nothing short of a goldmine. You can get a much closer view of your business performance and really understand where you can improve services. The benefits of a mobile app for hotels are far too many to ignore any longer.
4. Room Sharing
One word – Airbnb. The success of this industry disruptor has spurred an industry of its own, giving rise to many other room sharing apps. Essentially, anyone with a space to let out can list their space and those looking for an economic and homely stay can browse from the listings.
Adventurous new locations, homes off the beaten track, unique rooms to share, the thrill of meeting new people and all this at lower costs that traditional hotels, it’s just too attractive a proposition. The vacation rental niche is thriving right now with companies like HomeStay, HomeAway and Roomster flourishing alongside Airbnb. And though one might think that the space here is already crowded, you can always find some new and unique value to offer. Riding on the undying wanderlust and the millennial spirit, people will keep traveling and keep exploring newer ways to enjoy their stay.
5. Deals and Discounts
Traveling the world is no longer a retirement dream. Younger consumers like the millennials and the Gen Z want to live their travel dreams right now. They want to travel, explore, and go on adventures, all while they are young. This means that these youngsters are always on the lookout for a good deal. Last minute hotel discounts are one of the most sought after things on the internet and some apps have based their entire revenue models on providing fleeting discounts and last minute bargains. For networking-savvy entrepreneurs who can find the best deals on hotel rooms and offer the lowest prices to their customers, a ‘deals and discounts’ type of mobile app is a very promising business.
So those are five of the most common app categories that can be a great business in the travel and hospitality industry. Whether you are a hotelier, or a tech entrepreneur waiting to be the next disruptor in this ever growing industry, you can develop an app that resembles the above categories of takes a whole new approach of its own. Either way you do it, hotel booking apps are a growing business.
Tips for Building Your Own Hotel Booking App
By now you’re probably super excited about dabbling in the world of hotel booking apps. Now here’s the thing. There are plenty of hotel booking apps doing great business already. But that is only an indication of how big this market is. Right now is a great time to look for gaps in the current landscape, and believe me, there are many such gaps. You just need to find a gap, and build your own unique value proposition (UVP) to fill that gap. The world is traveling the world and you have a huge potential for growth, as long as you can do anything that helps people travel cheaper, faster and better. Find better places to stay at, grow a bigger network of hotels and homestay providers to give your users bigger discounts and more exotic stays. Make remote check-ins easier and faster, eliminate hassles along the way. Integrate services like commute, stay and food. There are just so many ways to make traveling more enjoyable and with enough creativity, you can be the next disruptor in the booming business of hotel booking apps.