We all enjoy the comfort of a hotel room after a long and exhausting journey. But it can take quite a while to book a room if you aren’t using a hotel booking app. Many startups have made it easier for users to find and book accommodation. If you’re looking for guidance on how to improve the hospitality industry, consider these hotel booking app development best practices.
Hotel booking business models
To build an online hotel booking app, you should first decide on your business model. There are four main models: merchant, aggregator, advertising, and dedicated.
With the merchant model, you sign a contract with a hotel to receive rights to a number of rooms. Then you can sell these rooms to guests through your application. Expedia makes effective use of this model. The service offers rooms in more than 200 countries and brings in massive revenue. Thanks to the company’s wide reach and resourcefulness, it can keep to the merchant model. Here’s how it works. Let’s say that a hotel sells 10 rooms to Expedia at a rate of $100 per room instead of the Best Available Rate (BAR) of $120. When one of these rooms is booked via the Expedia platform, the hotelier gets $75 and Expedia keeps $25.
This model is simple and widely used. Apps are usually connected to online booking services. When you start looking for a place to stay, you get a list of hotels with rooms at various price points. You can click on the option that best satisfies your needs and the app will redirect you to the website of the preferred booking platform. This model works for audiences that like comparing prices to get the best deal possible. One famous platform that uses this model is Booking.com. Booking.com takes a commission for each successful booking, which ranges from 10 percent to 30 percent. The percentage that a hotelier pays depends on the company’s size and how high it wants to appear in search results.
This model is similar to the aggregator model because it also involves listing rooms at many different hotels. The difference lies in how the platform makes money. Hotel booking services that use the advertising model earn on a pay-per-click basis. These sites display buttons that let users go to the booking page of an accommodation provider. On an aggregator platform, customers can read what other travelers say about the accommodation and view ratings. When an accommodation provider gets a lead, the platform gets a fee for converting the user to a lead. Famous hotels often use ten or more advertisers who list their links in order to have more exposure.
TripAdvisor is one of the most popular companies that uses this model. With TripAdvisor, hoteliers can have free listings or buy an annual package to get listed and receive higher rankings. With free listings, all booking is done via the platform, which charges hoteliers three percent per successful booking. However, if hoteliers have an annual subscription, they can choose whether they want to process payments on TripAdvisor with this three percent commission or require guests to book directly through their own website. This commission is calculated based on the total booking cost with all add-on services such as cleaning.
If you have an established business and a lot of repeat customers, then this business model may be the right fit for you. With the dedicated model, you develop a dedicated app just for your hotel or chain of hotels and resorts. Besides letting clients reserve rooms, your app can offer extra perks such as concierge services and loyalty programs. You can think of many more ideas, like including car rentals or booking tables at a restaurant. In other words, you’re free to implement any features you like to help your clients get the best service imaginable. Take Hilton as an example.
Types of hotel booking applications
Travelers who use hotel booking search engines can be divided into meticulous planners and spontaneous planners. Some people book hotel rooms in advance and others book at the last minute. Your app should cater to one or both of these user segments.
Some people plan stays carefully and reserve accommodation a month or a year ahead. They look online for information on hotels, read reviews, and view photos. Hotel owners target this segment of users and want to know how to create a hotel booking website for them. Hoteliers see an app as a form of advertisement. Expedia, a famous hotel booking engine and travel companion, and Priceline cater to users who plan in advance.
Last-minute booking applications such as HotelTonight, HotelQuickly, and Hipmunk help people reserve accommodation the same day or week and sometimes with no grace period. People may need to find a last-minute room due to cancellations, changed plans, or layovers. Hoteliers can offer their unsold inventory at a great discount via a last minute hotel booking app. There’s no catch, just a win-win situation.
You can also consider blending the two concepts of in-advance and last-minute bookings. For example, HotelTonight started as a last-minute booking application that allowed users to reserve a room seven days before arrival. However, the platform has expanded its booking window up to 100 days to compete with Priceline, Expedia, and Booking.com.
Other unique value propositions
Besides in-advance and last-minute booking solutions, some brands have come up with other concepts to help users find lodging.
- Low-cost bookings are especially popular among Millenials. A good example of a platform that offers low-cost bookings is HostelBookers. It offers beds in 3,500 hostels and low-cost hotels for people looking for cheap deals.
- Free stays are a type of accommodation where users pay nothing for lodging. You’ve probably heard about the Couchsurfing app that lets you spend a night at a local’s home. This app was designed to let travelers and locals experience cultural exchange.
- Swapping homes is another unique value proposition you can offer. Holiday Swap is a Tinder-style application that lets you swap homes with like-minded travelers for just $1 per night. This peer-to-peer marketplace covers 40 countries.
- Apps for short stays can be valuable for those who need to kill some time in a more or less comfortable way. Instead of wandering in an unfamiliar area, you might as well take a shower, relax, or get some work done in a hotel room. The service Dayuse.com caters to users who are looking for accommodation during the day just for a short while when they’re between activities.
Core hotel booking app features
Users will have certain features that they definitely expect. You should place those features at your users’ fingertips to help them make reservations quickly and easily. We’ve singled out the top hotel booking app features and suggested features you can upgrade your application with.
- Hotel search and reservations. Search allows users to find the right room. People don’t want to look through thousands of options. Applying criteria such as location, date, and number of guests can significantly speed up the search process. Users should be able to select the city they’re going to and set their arrival and departure dates via a date picker. There should also be an option to specify the number of people and if they’re traveling with children or pets.
- Filters. You can let users filter results more precisely. Users may want to set a price range or rating range they’re interested in. Keep in mind that this kind of sorting allows you to display all offers but changes the order in which they’re shown on the screen. For example, users may want to look through the cheapest rooms first or see hotels with the highest ratings.
- Personal accounts. Your app can actually become a hotel booking management app if you allow your users to create personal accounts where they can track discounts or view booking history. A user profile lets users access all information about their upcoming and past bookings. You can use this data to create personalized offers and loyalty programs.
- Room previews. Letting your users preview rooms can boost conversion rates. Images place your visitor right into a hotel room and let them see and almost feel the experience. Besides a traditional image gallery for room previews, you can offer 3D tours, 360-degree views, or virtual tours.
- Notifications. Your app users will appreciate notifications that inform them about booking details, check-in and check-out times, and discounts. You can send travelers personalized deals through push notifications too.
- Payment gateway. Mobile devices can let users pay in just a few clicks. Your application can keep users’ credit and debit card information safe and secure for instant payments. You can also integrate popular payment gateways such as Omise, Stripe, Braintree, and PayPal. The more options you include, the more convenient your application will be.
- Settings. Your users may come from all over the world, so it’s wise to allow them to choose their language and currency to make the app more user-friendly. Users should also be able to choose which notifications they want to receive.
You can also consider upgrading your hotel booking app with nice-to-have features. It’s best to do this once you’ve already validated your product. By adding helpful features, you can offer your clients a full-fledged travel companion.
- Flight search and ticketing. Alongside finding lodging, you can give travelers the opportunity to buy plane tickets.
- Car rental. Adding the ability to rent a car can give your application an advantage. Third-party integration with Uber or BlaBlaCar lets you provide your users with ride services.
- Recommendation engine. To build a multifunctional travel application, you can let your users receive recommendations for places to see and events to visit. With the help of NFC and GPS, users can choose their current location to get suggestions for events and places. Those suggestions can be accompanied by reviews and photos.
- Analytics. Booking app development should also involve analytics on the backend. Analytics can let you analyze how your users behave, monitor how effective your advertising campaigns are, and see the preferences of each guest. With this data you can deliver exceptional offers to even your most demanding users.
- Interactive floor plans. Hotels come in different sizes and with various layouts. People may get lost if they don’t have a map of what’s in and outside the hotel. An interactive floor plan feature can provide users with the hotel’s layout, rooms, and attractions.
- Client relationship management (CRM) system. An application isn’t only convenient for people who reserve rooms. It can also help hoteliers with client relationship management. We’ve developed a service called Atlas Hotel, for example, that allows managers to track which guests are coming their way.
Here you can see the dashboard with all guests who are coming to Atlas Hotel and the available rooms.
Here you can see booking details, additional services the guest has ordered, and the total amount the guest owes. You can also print out invoices or save them as PDF files.
When you click the Bookings page, you see a calendar view of all reservations for the coming week.
On the Service Tickets page, you can see that rooms have been assigned to managers. You can see the statuses and types of rooms. There’s also an option to edit this information.
Now that you’re familiar with the features, you may be wondering how to develop a hotel booking website from a technical standpoint.
Hotel booking website development: useful tech tips
When starting on travel booking website development, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You may as well use ready-made solutions and APIs. We’ve listed some you can use.
To let travelers book accommodation, you can use the Expedia Affiliate Network API, or other popular booking APIs.
To provide your users access to ratings and reviews, you can integrate the Olery Hotel Review Data API or the TripAdvisor Content API. This way you can allow your users to make decisions based on reviews.
Sometimes, it’s important for visitors to know what’s around the hotel they’re going to stay in. The Google Places API has information about stores, restaurants, and many more places. This API will help your visitors locate places of interest.
The izi.TRAVEL API can enrich your app with city guides for over 1,750 cities and stories along the routes translated into different languages.
For in-app payments, we recommend using the Stripe SDK. The best way to integrate a map is using the Google Maps API.
You can use Firebase Analytics to collect data about user behavior.
If you want to integrate a weather forecast, you can use OpenWeatherMap API.
To let your clients rent vehicles, you can integrate your solution with the Uber API.
How much does it cost to build a hotel booking application?
To understand how much money you’ll need, you should know how many hours your hotel booking app development company will require to build your product. We won’t go into details of wireframing and hotel booking app design, but we’ll give you a rough estimate as far as development goes. The time spent on each feature will depend on the type of app and technology stack. We’ve chosen the two most popular mobile platforms, Android and iOS. We’ve also provided a rough estimate to let you know the cost to start a hotel booking site. You can multiply these numbers by the hourly rate of your developers to find the approximate cost.
At SteelKiwi, we recommend adding core features first to launch your MVP. You can always add additional features when you update your app.
Embracing opportunities in hotel booking app development
Applications are already helping many guests find lodging. Forward-thinking hospitality brands have applied mobile-first strategies to their campaigns to deliver the best user experiences while achieving high brand advocacy. You can break into this industry with your solution, and SteelKiwi is here to help! Get in touch with us and we’ll assign the best software development team to your project.