Today last-minute hotel bookings app HotelTonight debuted updates to its iOS and Android app and introduced new features including personalized hotel options and customer hotel ratings. With over three million downloads, HotelTonight is now available in over 50 cities around the world, and offers last-minute rooms at up to 70 percent off (the average discount is 30-35 percent).
HotelTonight founder Sam Shank, who previously founded travel startups TravelPost and DealBase, said today’s update was motivated by the extra inventory they have in a given city, usually 25-30 hotels competing for three daily offers. He said limiting it to three daily hotels keeps the deals good, but found that customers wanted additional options to pick from. “Customers were saying three deals is great…but there’s times when those three hotels just aren’t the right fit for me, and one of the other 27 hotels that you were getting inventory from would have been a better fit.”
The app will continue to offer discounted last-minute hotels in cities around the world, letting users book a room after specials go live at noon, but in addition to these three last-minute deals, now known as Impulse Deals, it will also offer personalized hotel options. These personalized “bonus” options will be customized based on hotels close to a user’s location, hotels liked by other travelers, or hotels a user has stayed at before (not all users will see a personalized option every time they open the app).
“We’re the first people to do this, and I really think that context, personalization and customization, context awareness on the phone is the future for mobile applications, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of that in the next year, an we wanted to get out in front of it.” He also said they’ll be adding to their customization options in the future.
Today’s updates also include ratings from customers who have booked through the app – Shank said the average rating is 91 percent, and they’ve stopped working with about 10 hotels based on their ratings to date. It also features a redesigned city list focused on international travelers, the ability to view hotels based on how many nights they have available, and the ability to see how far you are from a hotel if it’s within 10 miles. The Android app now also has support for Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean devices, a redesigned user interface (UI).
Since launching in January 2011, the company has raised over $35 million in funding, including $23 million in Series C funding in June 2012. It launched its first international cities in April 2012, and debuted in London in time for the Olympic Games this summer. It also opened offices in London to support its international expansion, and Shank said that office has seven people, and they’re actively recruiting over there for country managers. “The majority of that funding is being applied to international expansion,” Shank said. “That said, we would have done it anyway, so it’s not necessarily because of the financing.”
The company’s business model relies on sales teams works directly with hotels to list their same-day inventory – they take around 20 percent of each booking, though Shank said in a previous interview that the specific commission is negotiated with each hotel. As we noted in a previous article, expanding internationally means competing with other last-minute hotel booking apps like France’s ReallyLateBooking and Spain’s Blink Booking.
While Shank hinted in April that eventually he’d like to expand HotelTonight beyond travel and turn it into a platform for selling distressed inventory for other verticals, he said right now the team is entirely focused on building their hotel booking brand. “It’s interesting to think about because we’ve gotten to be really good matching this perishable inventory that suppliers have with mobile consumers that would otherwise not purchase anything from those suppliers,” he said. “The learnings that we have in hotels are very applicable to other industries.”