How to Build a Hotel Booking Application?

If you are wondering how to make a hotel reservation app you’re at the right place! In today's article we are going to:

  • learn about different business approaches in the hotel booking field;
  • make a list of features for an MVP;
  • check how much the development of a hotel booking app costs;
  • find out 6 ways to make revenue with such apps;
  • give you some helpful tech tips;
  • review examples of successful hotel reservation apps.

P. S. Look for a bonus at the end of this article!

Summer is coming! It means that soon a lot of travelers all over the world will pack their baggage and start off on a journey. However, this happens not only in summer. In winter people often go skiing and skating while others prefer to enjoy fascinating Christmas atmosphere staying in big cities. Also, don’t forget about business and study travelers who are also interested in hotel booking all year round.

🏨 Why a hotel booking app?

But do we really need mobile apps for a reservation industry if travel agencies can do all the work for us? My answer is yes and so will be yours by the end of this article. Just take a look at remarkable statistics below:

eTravel market revenue
eTravel market revenue (statistics by Statista)

The so-called “eTravel” market grows by more than 10% per year! What does it mean for hotel owners and entrepreneurs (and if you are reading this article you are probably one of them)? It means that modern people really appreciate their freedom so they want to have control over everything they do. And traveling is not an exception.

Nowadays travelers have a lot of options to plan journeys the way they want it. Which places to visit, where to stay, how to get there - these and far more questions can be solved only by using a smartphone. How can you turn this tech tendency into your profit? Create a hotel booking app! Despite it may sound like a big task for now, we’re going to review the whole process in pieces. Let’s get it started!

⚙️ Hotel booking app development: everything you should know

Before starting to build an app there are some issues to consider. Read on to find out 3 different types of hotel reservation apps, the list of MVP features and our estimation!

💰 Choose a concept

Before starting a reservation app development you should think about app’s concept. Generally, there are 3 different approaches that define your business idea. So, you can either:

  1. create a booking aggregator;
  2. build an app for your own hotel chain;
  3. combine these two strategies.

Let’s take a closer look!

Booking aggregator

Hotel booking aggregator
The app sends us to Booking.com (image by Konstantin Savchenko)

This is the most common type of hotel reservation apps. The logic of their work is very simple.

These apps are connected with as many online booking services as possible so when a user is looking for a place to stay he gets a unified list of accommodation offerings but with several price options from different reservation platforms. After he chooses the most appropriate one he is often redirected to the website of the corresponding booking platform.

The brightest examples in this field are Booking.com and Hotellook.

Reservation app for own hotel chain

Hilton Hhonors app
Hilton Honors app

This approach is often used by well-known hotel chains. For instance, such market leaders as Marriott and Hilton have own apps that unite all their resort brands.

However, it’s reasonable to develop a separate app for your own chain only if it’s popular and big enough. Also, these apps usually have far more functionality than just booking. They allow users to make special requests even during the stay - for example, order towels, a glass of juice or extra pillows whenever you need it.

App with the hybrid approach

The Hybrid app
Image by Md. Ashiful Haque

We can also build a reservation app with the hybrid approach. Such apps combine both approaches that were mentioned above. What does it mean? It means that you will be able to aggregate offers from the top online booking services along with adding offers from your own hotels.

Actually, this solution may be the best for hotel owners whose business is just growing. On the one hand, you will attract many users and get the additional source of income. On the other hand, you will increase your brand awareness by proposing some extra offers for the resorts of your chain.

🗺️ Choose an area

Another important issue you should solve before developing your own booking app is defining an operational area of your business. There are two possible solutions:

  • run your app globally;
  • focus on a local market.
The hotel booking app
It's better to run globally (image by Ziya Fenn)

Of course, it’s better to cover as many countries and cities as you can. The larger amount of accommodation offerings your app will provide, the more users will be satisfied with it.

Nevertheless, if you decide to make a booking app for your own hotels, it’s reasonable to start locally. In this way you can get early feedbacks from first users and refine your app till it’s almost a mobile masterpiece. Henceforth you can try changing your business model to a hybrid one and expand further.

Regardless of your choice, any hotel booking application should include a set of basic features. What are they? Read on and you will find out!

📋 Hotel mobile app features: your must-have list

Let’s follow the path of a typical user and review essential features for him.

🔎 Step 1: all about searching

Before booking a room your users should find an appropriate one. It would be crazy to make them check thousands or even hundred of thousands of available variants of accommodation! So as to make the whole reservation process as fast and easy as possible users should be able to set a number of options for searching.

The searching process
The searching process (image by sumit chakraborty)

Commonly, there are 3 parameters that users can usually choose at the first setout:

  • location (a city they are going to visit);
  • date (a period of time between arrival and departure);
  • number of persons (they are usually divided into adults/children/pets categories).

🏘️ Step 2: getting the results

Parameters are set, the "search" button is pressed. What happens next? The user finds himself on the screen with results. This is the place where all the hotels that match his request are displayed. Let’s take a look at the features that become important at this moment.

First of all, these are filters and sorting feature. Despite they may sound pretty similar there are some differences between them.

Filters
Filters (image by Guillaume Galante)

We use filters for even more precise search by setting more specific parameters. Results that don’t fit our requirements are just neglected. Talking about hotel app development, filters can be applied to set an affordable price range, minimum user rating and so on.

Sorting doesn’t exclude any offerings from the results screen. It just changes the order in which they are shown. In our case, customers may want to see the cheapest options first or start choosing from the hotels that have the highest user rating.

Another cool feature that may come in handy for your users is an in-app map. It shows the location of all hotels in the requested city. We can’t call this feature essential but it’s still very useful for travelers who want to stay near certain places.

🤔 Step 3: come and have a closer look

So your user is scrolling through the results and suddenly understands - that’s it! A nice-looking hotel which offers accommodation at an affordable price. Your user cannot wait to get more info about it and, if everything is great, book a room. That’s how he ends up on a screen with a detailed description of this particular variant of accommodation.

Details in the app
Detailed desriptions are very important for any booking app (image by Vitaly Silkin)

What does your user expect to see there? Our answer is:

  • Overview - includes all the basic info about a hotel (like its address, check-in and check-out time etc).
  • Gallery with photos - allows creating a visual representation.
  • Accommodation offers - a list of available rooms with photos, descriptions and prices.
  • Additional amenities - some other stuff that guests can use (like Wi-Fi and parking places).
  • Ratings - a block with reviews from other users.
  • Map - shows the location of the hotel and its surroundings.
  • Suggestions - a few similar variants of accommodation if the current one does not suit you for some reason.
  • Social media share - a quick and easy way to share a hot offer with your friends.
Read Also Mobile App Design Trends Expected in 2017

💳 Step 4: pay a bill and enjoy your stay

This is the last step that separates the user from the reserved room. All you can do here is to provide your customers with fast and secure payment service. This screen should include total amount with the possibility to see the payment by days.

Payment system
Provide your users with several payment options

👥 What’s left? Profiles!

The profile is another essential feature of a reservation app since it keeps all the information about a user and his bookings. Having your own account also opens an access to private settings (such as language, currency, bookmarks etc). Besides this, users are also able to check their personalized discounts or details of their booking history and ongoing reservations.

THe profile page
Your profile provides a quick access to your personal data (image by Ty Registe)

🛠️ How to make hotel reservation app: tech tips

As usual, we are going to provide you with a number of helpful development tools. With its help you are able to use existing infrastructure and data that is necessary for the travel business. Take a look:

  1. To fill your app with accommodation offers you can use ZUMATA Hotel Booking API or Expedia Affiliate Network API.
  2. Olery Hotel Review Data API and TripAdvisor Content API provide access to ratings and reviews.
  3. Google Places API is used to add information about stores, cafeterias and other important places that are sometimes necessary for the user to choose a hotel.
  4. izi.TRAVEL offers another API that may come in handy. It enriches the app with city guides and stories along the routes.
  5. As always, we advise you to use Stripe SDK for handling in-app payments.
  6. Google Maps API is the easiest way to integrate a map into your app.

However, you still have to apply for services of a hotel booking app development company since you will need developers and designers to do all the work. How much can it cost you? Our developers have made an estimate for you, so read on!

👛 How much does it cost to build a hotel booking app?

You, guys, could already get used that we provide you with an estimate of both BackEnd and FrontEnd parts. This time we decided to omit BackEnd part since it may significantly change depending on the concept you choose. Therefore, today we are going to pay more attention to the FrontEnd part, or, in short, iOS and Android apps that are visible to users.

*common tasks include: project setup; repository setup; architecture setup; libraries integration; local database setup; local models creation; cache configuration; authentication setup; navigation setup.

Don’t forget that all of the above is only a rough estimate of the mobile app without the BackEnd part. If you have an idea for a hotel booking startup feel free to share it with us and we will provide you with more detailed and accurate estimate!

Read Also 7 Reasons why I need an MVP for my startup

💸 6 ways to monetize a hotel booking app

So far we have discussed only how much you will have to spend so as to develop a reservation app. But what about incomes? How is it possible to make money with such an app? Let’s find out!

1. Paid downloads

It’s the “easiest” way to earn money and, to be honest, scare users off. There is a slight chance that someone will download a paid app only after it’s well-known and perfected. Thus, it’s definitely what you should NOT do.

2. Charge a commission

Unlike the paid downloads, this solution is one of the most effective and profitable. Commonly, users pay a fixed fee for booking services so they are more likely to download and use your app since they know there are no any implicit payments.

However, another solution is to charge a commission from a hotel for each customer that booked a room there through your app.

3. Advertising

People never spend money so willingly as on vacation. It means they are perfect targets for advertising - and that’s where you can benefit too! By selling partners advertisements you will get another source of income.

Moreover, ads may also be helpful for users since they inform about special offers, ongoing events, discounts and so forth. However, don’t forget that there is no easier way to make users hate an app than to overflow it with excessive advertising.

4. Freemium model

Freemium model allows customers to use all the essential features for free. However, after paying for a premium version of app users will have an access to the set of exclusive features. For example, they will be able to book a room without prepayment or get a 100% guarantee of compensation if the reservation was canceled.

5. Subscription

Subscription is something similar to a freemium model but for a certain period of time (actually, it’s up for a user to decide how long). This model implies that by paying fixed amount of money every month users will get some preferences in return. It may be removing all ads from the app, getting the hottest offers and biggest sales earlier than other users and so on.

You can encourage users to buy a long-lasting subscription by offering them profitable terms. For example, if your monthly subscription costs $10, the annual one may cost $100 so you customers can save $20.

6. App-as-a-Service

There is also one solution that doesn’t charge a fee from any party. In this case, the hotel pays either for its placing in your app (which is not effective so we strongly don’t recommend you this choice) or for some extra features (for example, a permission to publish more photos).

This approach allows to successfully compete with large players like Booking.com, Hotels.com and others since your prices are lower for users (as they don’t include any fee from the hotels).

Case study: Hotellook, Hotels.com

We’ve learned enough theory so now we can move to practice. Let’s take a look at two successful hotel reservation apps and find out how they have implemented some of the mentioned above features.

Hotellook: perfect in its simplicity

Hotellook app
Hotellook app's searching page

According to Google Play Market, this app was downloaded between 1-5 million times. And we understand why!

Hotellook is the aggregator app that cooperates with 80+ online booking systems and covers more than 760,000 hotels in 205 countries. The app can either suggest you located nearby variants of accommodation for a fast reservation or provide you with a detailed info about hotels around the globe for beforehand booking.

Filter system in Hotellook app
Filters and sorting in Hotellook app

Among other noteworthy basic features (that you can take into consideration during your app development) there are:

  • Flexible filter system that allows to sort results by price, rating, distance to any point (you can set it on your own), peculiar meals, room/hotel amenities or payment properties.
  • Detailed description which includes bright high-quality photos, users reviews and, most importantly, a pricing block with several offers from different booking systems.

Hotels.com: 3 creative ways to attract users

Another successful competitor on the market is Hotels.com. As Google Play Market reports, the app has between 10-50 million downloads.

Hotels.com app
Hotels.com app (image by Alex Todd)

Hotels.com is quite different from the Hotellook app. It doesn’t redirect you to online booking services and allows to make all the payments right in the app. However, it’s worthy of note for a number of special features that may be useful when you decide to build a hotel booking app:

  1. For every 10 nights booked with this app you will get 1 free night in any available hotel.
  2. Hotels.com app has an in-app map with famous sightseeings of the city you visit marked on it.
  3. You can also save up to 50% using Secret Prices that available only in the mobile app.

🎁 Bonus

Remember the bonus we told about at the very beginning of the article?

Here is a clickable prototype of a booking app developed here in the Stormotion HQ.

Feel free to discover the screens and use it as a basis for your hotel booking startup!

💡 Conclusion

Hotel booking app development seems like a good idea for a startup in 2017. You should start from choosing a business concept and then move further to the development stage (don’t forget to consider features from our MVP-list). The FrontEnd part of the app will cost you approximately 12,750-13,500$ per platform.

We are happy to help with your hotel reservation app development. Share your idea with us and we'll provide an estimation within 24 Hours.

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