The international tourists had hit the record high 1.2 billion last year.
Airlines are fearlessly luring passengers with low fare prices or unique amenities on board. As the global workforce shifts towards the freelance model, more and more people can afford to travel for longer than two weeks per year. Finding a cheap flight is a matter of flexibility with flight search engines like Skyscanner that was just acquired by a Chinese travel company for an astonishing £1.4 billion (startups, take notice).
A high-speed train can take you to another country in Europe within a matter of hours and BlaBlaCar made traveling by car extremely affordable and accessible even to those without a personal vehicle.
The hotel industry is growing at the same fast pace.
Airbnb now boasts over 1 million properties in 190 countries worldwide. Marriott hotel chain expects to hit the same number of rooms this year. And it’s really hard to estimate how many properties are now available to book online through all the apps and websites out there.
The demand is here. But so does the competition.
If you want to make a hotel booking application that stands a chance today, you need to make it stand out from the crowd. And here are a few strategies you may want to consider for this!
Give Your App a Competitive Advantage
The industry already has a number of established players like Booking.com, Hipmunk, Hostelworld, Agoda and Priceline to name a few.
So what’s your unique bait gonna be?
Here are just a few ideas (with examples) you may want to consider:
- Focusing on a specific concept of traveling.
- Blending in the technical innovations
- Building a social community around your product.
Focus on a Specific Concept of Traveling
The majority of modern travelers no longer settle for the “tourist” label. For starters, there are digital nomads, flashpackers and backpackers, traveling families, perpetual expats and slow travelers, “green” travelers and a bunch of other jet-setting individuals with very specific requirements for their stay.
A lot of people don’t want “just some hotel room”. They want to “belong everywhere”, “feel like a local” and “discover unique stays”.
These are just some of the slogans fuelling Airbnb’s popularity.
Millennials (one of the largest traveling demographics) nowadays, in general, prefer to spend more money on experiences, rather than desired things.
Hence, you may want to build a hotel reservation app that focuses on a specific “experience” component. For instance:
- A glamping app featuring the best luxury camps, caravans, and yurts people can crash at in the wild.
- A booking app featuring the best eco-friendly and sustainable homestays and hotels run by the local families (opposed to the intentional hotel chains)
- An app offering long-term flat rentals and ranks different cities based on their appeal to digital nomads. You can grab that data from NomadList.
- Alternatively, you can create a subscription-rental service, which for a fixed fee can allow frequent travelers to get access to different facilities in your chain around the globe.
- An app for hotel reservations with cool experiences included e.g. yoga retreats, spa, safaris, ski vacations, adventurous activities etc.
- Pilgrimage-geared apps that would advice you the monasteries/retreats you can stay at and how to plan your pilgrimage journey, for instance down the Santiago de Compostela route.
- A family-friendly hotel reservation app that features properties with kids’ facilities only. You can offer to refine the search based on the kids age e.g. “toddlers”, “mid-school”, “teens” etc.
Blend in The Technical Innovations
If reinventing the travel experience or going niche doesn’t sound appealing to your business, you may want to develop the most cutting-edge and innovative hotel booking app out there to rock the market. Here are a few cool tech novelties to consider.
Conversational Interfaces and Chatbots
Chatbots are becoming the new hotness in the web space. Facebook messenger already features some 11,000 bots.
Booking.com has already jumped on the bandwagon and introduced a bot to facilitate the communication between hosting properties and travelers. Both parties can shoot quick questions about the time of arrival, reservation details etc.
HelloGbye is another great example of how conversational interfaces can be used in the travel industry. This smart robot mimics a real-life travel agent and helps travelers plan their entire trip – from booking airfare, to mapping out the on-ground transportation, booking a room and figuring out the best things to do in the city:
If you need a fresh idea, you may want to build a personal assistant bot like X.ai, who will help travelers find the right room, manage their reservation, exchange conversations with the property and send the reminder about the travel dates.
AR and VR Functionality
Virtual and augmented reality hasn’t been used much by the hotel app developers just yet. For startups, the entry costs might be a bit inhibitive, yet more established ventures may want to consider the following functionality:
In-App Virtual Tours
How many times have the property guests complained that the room is twice smaller than they imagined based on the photos, or that the bed is too close to the fridge and asked to change rooms?
To avoid this kind of frustrations, you may want to include a 3-d in-app preview of your properties within your app. While VR device prices are pretty high right now, you can instruct users to take a Google Cardboard viewer (or make a DIY version of it).
Alternatively, you may want to include a VR tour of certain popular travel destinations to fuel user’s wanderlust and urge them to book a room there right now.
If you have selected hotel partners on board or plan to develop a hotel booking app for your hotel chain, you can enhance the guests’ experience by placing AR markets around your property and highlighting that in your mobile app.
For instance, guests could scan certain objects to learn more about the hotel rules, available amenities, dining options, cool activities etc without bugging your front desk staff.
We previously wrote how iBeacons can enhance passenger experience in the airports and this concept could be stretched further to the hotel experience.
If your mobile app supports this technology and you have a physical beacon installed in your properties, some magical things can happen:
- Your staff can instantly get notified when the new guest steps to the property and prepare their keys.
- Guests can instantly get a sweet greeting message with directions to your front desk (if required), their room number and how soon it will be ready.
- Further on, you can send them out your dining menu and in-room service options, your current shopping promotions, special deals from partners e.g. for car reservations, scheduled tours etc.
Incorporating the iBeacon module won’t impact much the overall hotel booking app development cost, but will definitely add more delight to your in-property experience.
Build a Social Community Around Your Product
For those planning to launch a mobile hotel deals and booking aggregator, this can be an affordable and easy-to-implement option to stand out from the crowd.
HostelWorld launched a viral Meet The World campaign last year, which heavily appealed to the social and personal component of travel. It was designed to encourage millennials travelers to stay in hostels in order to meet with like-minded folks and go exploring together.
Needless to say it made a huge buzz all around the web and seriously helped the company to leverage their revenues and brand.
From the perspective of hotel booking app development that could be turned into some cool advanced functionality for your app:
- A special “meeting” section where travelers heading to the same destinations/staying in the same properties can connect and chat up.
- Aggregating and utilizing big data to offer even more personalized suggestions to your app users.
- Making your app more social by allowing users not only to rate and review properties but to auto-sync their Instagram pictures for instance. Based on the data, you can then create cool lists like “the most Instagram-worthy hostels” or “the most unique sleeps” etc.
- Add travel planning services to your app and offer users to get a list of personalized travel recommendations from a local host.
- Choose to support a certain cause. For instance, you can partner small with local businesses and homestays and mention that a certain fraction of each booking goes into improving the sustainability in Costa Rica for instance.
- You can allow users to review which properties their friends have stayed at and where they are heading to next.
- You can additionally add a city guide or local events guide section to your app, where you’ll advise on the best things to experience (and crowdsource the options/advice from other users)
A Few Common Pitfalls Of Hotel Booking App Development
- Avoid using HTML5 for your custom hotel booking app. This technology is well outdated, lacks solid design and makes the product a bit sluggish. Opt for a native app instead. Here’s a more detailed comparison of native vs. hybrid apps to help you understand the reasoning better.
- Start with an MVP if you aim to offer the new concept of travel (like Airbnb) did to validate your assumptions with the target audience first.
- Uncluttered interface and intuitive navigation is a must. Your hotel booking app should make booking a stay faster and simpler. Users shouldn’t get overwhelmed with all the options and should be able to easily find relevant properties. Include a smart search, offer a variety of filters and search criteria.
- Crisp, high-quality images are a must too. Enforce ruthless moderation and reject properties that fail to upload decent images of their rooms and premises.
So How Much Does It Cost To Develop a Hotel Booking App?
As usual, the costs will vary depending on the desired functionality (building VR components costs less than adding an Instagram integration), the platforms you choose (iOS/Android) and the folks you hire for the job.
The very rough app development cost estimate for a hotel booking app is $35,000-$50,000. We’ll be happy to provide you a more detailed cost breakdown based on your project specifications if you contact us directly!