As the amount of bookings continue to rise on mobile, there’s been an explosion in the amount of hotel and travel apps flooding the market. Today, travelers can search for last-minute deals, seek curated concierge services, and “talk” with a chatbot about their booking through sophisticated, user-friendly apps.
For hotels, the latest apps represent an alternate distribution channel to reach an increasingly mobile-reliant consumer. With that in mind, here are nine relatively new apps that hoteliers should be aware of.
Last-minute booking apps
HotelTonight was one of the first major apps to market promoting last-minute bookings, and quickly spawned a number of competing concepts, including the Asian-oriented HotelQuickly. Here are a few other evolutions of the concept:
Founded in 2014 by ex-Expedia employees Michael Reichartz and Jim Ferguson, Roomlia aims to offer the best last-minute hotel deals with the ability to compare room rates up to seven days before arriving.
The big bonus for hotels is that Roomlia sends users directly to the hotel to complete their booking. Along with claiming to have the fastest mobile booking process, Roomlia also provides a loyalty program that rewards users with a free stay at any Roomlia property after making they’ve used the app to make seven bookings.
A recent addition to the last-minute booking market, One:Night was created in 2016 by the operator of Standard Hotels. The app features a curated list of independent hotels (including those outside the Standard brand) that embody interesting design and lifestyle experiences.
Deals go live from 3 p.m. for rooms available that same day, but what makes One:Night unique is its emphasis on experience over price—hotels are displayed through high-quality images and users need to swipe away from the homepage to check rates.
Currently, only hotels in New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, and Miami are available, but plans are afoot to expand coverage to other cities later this year.
Discount booking apps function a lot like last-minute travel apps, with the primary difference being that hotels can booked much further ahead of time. Hotels have the option working with opaque suppliers that offer highly discounted rooms without advertising the name, or with luxury curators that can help them fill rooms in expected low season periods.
Expedia’s Hotwire strives to offer the lowest possible rates on hotel stays with discounts of up to 60% off advertised prices. But getting the lowest price involves a certain gamble: to benefit from Hotwire’s Hot Rate Hotels, the name of the property is only revealed after the booking.
The search process starts with rates displayed on a neighborhood map. When a user selects a neighborhood, they’re taken to a new page revealing additional details including price, location, amenities, and the discount. Only once their credit card has been charged do they see the hotel they’ve chosen.
While having the spontaneous nature of a last-minute booking app, Hotwire offers the ability to book rooms up to 330 days in advance.
Skylark is a members-only website app aimed at the luxury travel market. Discerning travelers can browse a curated list of seven to eight properties and airfare packages, with the potential of saving up to 50% off five-star hotels and flight deals.
The first year of membership is free, followed by a $400 annual subscription fee. Along with insider deals, members receive additional perks including 24/7 customer service, free upgrades, and airport lounge access.
To register, hotels can fill out a form on the Skylark website. But it’s worth pointing out that the selection process is strict. To ensure a hotel is the right fit, Skylark considers a range of criteria including service level, decor, room product, and amenities before granting approval.
The premise of concierge apps is destination curation, offering travelers access to a comprehensive itinerary and list of recommendations, which of course include hotels as well as the option to handle the booking on behalf of the client.
From tours and restaurants to shopping trips and local activities, Journy specializes in offering customized travel recommendations from a network of hand-picked experts. After filling in a short survey of preferences, a Journy destination expert will put together a tailor-made itinerary at a cost of $25 per day of travel.
Along with devising the perfect itinerary, Journy will recommend and book hotel rooms based on a user’s budget. Travelers can benefit from discounted room rates of up to 30%, while Platinum and Centurion-level extras include free upgrades and perks such as free breakfast.
It’s unclear at the moment how Journy curates its hotel selections, but interested parties can contact their team directly for partnership opportunities.
Powered by artificial intelligence, Mezi is designed as the personal travel assistant that learns your preferences over time. Along with reserving restaurants and offering activity suggestions, Mezi can book flights and hotels along with handling rescheduling and cancellations. And all interaction takes place through a messaging-style chatbot.
With the ability to remember past choices, the bots become better at offering tailored options. So a previous request for a five-star property, a room with a king-size bed, or a family-friendly hotel with a pool would all be accounted for during future recommendations.
In addition to travel-related activities, Mezi can also be used as a personal assistant for shopping, using its AI-capabilities to provide recommendations for fashion, home, electronics, and more.
Created by Kayak co-founder Paul English, Lola is another app targeted at business travelers that combines in-app messaging with artificial intelligence, but with the addition of a small team of human travel agents. The app is aiming for a July 2017 beta product release with a select few users.
After filling out travel preferences, users can filter hotels based on categories including “Luxury,” “Modern,” and “Romantic,” before selecting their preferred amenities. Favorite hotels (and hotels to avoid) can be picked from a list featuring major hotel brands, independent properties, Airbnb, and B&Bs. Results can also be refined by choosing the typical number of booking nights and preferred budget.
Once a suitable hotel has been found, a “real” travel consultant will then chat with users to flesh out their travel plans and make bookings.
Day use apps
As hotels begin innovating and maximizing the way they book space within their properties, one trend that has grown in recent years is the ability to book rooms during the day or by the hour—but not necessarily for sleazy reasons that people might expect. Targeting business travelers, these apps offer the option to rent rooms for short term to take naps and freshen up during their time in the city.
As You Stay
While hotels typically charge by the night, As You Stay offers the unique ability to pay by the hour. Travelers choose their arrival and check-out times and only pay for the time they used the room.
The As You Stay team will install their system for a hotel. Once set up, hotel staff will receive a notification when a guest checks in and checks out, helping them to quickly identify vacant rooms to monetize unused inventory. In terms of pricing, hotels can pick between a commission-based model or a series of tiered pricing options.
To date, the app has partnered with more than 50 New York City hotels and a dozen more in Miami South Beach with plans to feature properties in San Francisco and Chicago this year.
Upping the ante on pay-by-the-hour hotel rooms, San Francisco-based Recharge lets users pay by the minute. Depending on the hotel, rates vary from $0.66 to $3 per minute, which includes access to hotel amenities during their stay.
Once a customer finds a property, they simply tap to book the room. Payment begins after 30 minutes or as a soon as they pick up their room key. When a guest leaves, they click “Checkout” to end the payment.
Recharge is limited to properties in New York and San Francisco, but other US cities look set to be added soon. So far, the app has helped the majority of San Francisco hotels turn a six-figure annual profit based on by-the-minute reservations, helping both with unsold inventory and filling rooms left vacant for portions of the day. To register, hotels can fill out a short form on the Recharge website.
Reaching an app-savvy audience
The boom in travel apps represents a major shift in how consumers are planning trips and booking accommodation. No longer just about last-minute deals, an increasingly diverse marketplace means travelers can seek out everything from flexible pay-by-the hour hotel rooms to tailored trip planning services.
As the preference for researching and booking via apps continues to grow, hotels should look beyond traditional distribution channels and also build exposure on the increasingly niche platforms their target audience are using.