Cast your minds back to late 2010 when HotelTonight was unveiled and boasted that it was the fastest mobile hotel-booking app out there as well as the first mobile-only travel-booking business.
The startup quickly caught the attention media and rivals with companies including Priceline launching its own last-minute hotel-booking service called Tonight Only.
The hotel-booking giant said at the time that 70% of its mobile customers were bookings hotels on the same day.
It later added a last-minute booking service via mobile app for Booking.com called Booking.com Tonight.
Somewhere in between Expedia launched a last-minute deals service via its website and many in the industry began wondering whether the same-day hotel thing was more functionality than an actual business.
Fast forward to September 2014 and HotelTonight began beta testing a wider window, enabling travellers to book hotel rooms seven days in advance.
Here we are in 2017, with lots of funding and a few hurdles along the way, and HotelTonight has unveiled a ‘100 days out’ service effectively bringing it in line with other online hotel companies. Or is it?
Tnooz put some questions around the move to CEO Sam Shank. Here’s his view on why this move makes sense for the company.
Why 100 days out? Doesn’t this alter the brand promise of a hotel, tonight?
When we launched in 2011, the main use case for booking a hotel room via mobile was when people weren’t in front of their computers, but now consumers prefer purchasing everything through mobile – when the app is simple and intuitive.
Our customers have started telling us that they want to use HotelTonight more frequently — for all their hotel bookings.
Likewise, our hotel partners love the mobile technology we use to deliver them incremental revenue, and have been asking for a longer booking window.
If anything, their interest is even stronger than that of our customers. As an independent seller of hotel rooms, it’s our responsibility to listen to our partners and customers and adjust to changing market conditions.
Our expansion will bring HotelTonight to a larger audience who want to book with more lead time, and allows our current customers to use the app beyond seven days out.
This booking window expansion puts HT in direct competition with traditional OTAs. How does HT see itself moving forward?
The future of hotel booking is mobile, and that’s what we do.
You see it in a number of ways: the seamless design of our customer experience, the mobile technology which lets our hotel partners select discrete groups of customers and give them exclusive discounts and lastly, the superior presentation of a short list of highly relevant hotels that gets better the more that you use HotelTonight (we call this AI-powered curation).
Our speed of execution, innovative products and exclusive focus on mobile will continue to drive the business forward.
What is it about traditional OTAs that don’t work well, in the sense of the job the HT customer is hiring the company to do?
In contrast to the legacy OTAs who began online and have recreated their desktop experiences on mobile, we’ve been mobile from the very beginning, and as a result, we have by far the most seamless mobile experience – our booking process is the fastest, we have the highest lifetime App Store rating and the smallest app download size.
And to put it directly, we save our customers time and money.
Where our hotel partners are concerned, being mobile only also enables us to provide them better tools to segment and select high-intent, incremental customers they want to reach, for example through our GeoRates, geolocation-based discounts, or HT Perks, our rewards program enabling them to reach our highest value customers.
Is HotelTonight an OTA, or how would you categorize the business?
We describe ourselves as a MTA, a mobile travel agency.
The company’s ability to flourish in this highly competitive segment will depend on it continuing to provide the best experience using technology for consumers and hotel partners alike.
And, data from 2014 shows opportunity in both the last-minute segment and for a wider booking window for mobile.
Photo by KEEM IBARRA