In a world that's always on the move, having a mobile booking app for your business isn't just a trend. It's a strategic necessity! Imagine seamlessly connecting with your customers anytime, anywhere, and empowering them to access your services with just a few taps on their smartphones.
If you want to meet people's expectations in flight or hotel booking, in-destination check-in, and customer support, it’s time to think about the development of the hotel booking app.
Based on real-life experience, the Onix team experts explain how to build a booking app, what features to include, approximate hotel booking app costs, and many more helpful development tips and insights.
It's time to turn curiosity into conversion and browsing into booking!
Table of contents
- Reasons why hotel businesses should build a mobile booking app
- How to Make a Booking App: MVP features of a mobile travel booking app
- Required tech stack to build a custom hotel booking application
- How to build a hotel booking mobile app: Valuable Development Insights
- How much does it cost to develop a hotel booking app?
- How Onix Can Help
- Wrapping Up
Booking technology and hotel apps influence the decisions of 70% of travelers. Thus, the decision to embrace a mobile booking app is not merely a trend but a strategic leap towards a more seamless, accessible, and customer-centric future.
Below we unravel the compelling reasons why hotels should not only consider but actively invest in building their own mobile booking app.
Enhanced user experience
A mobile booking app provides a streamlined and user-friendly experience for customers. It allows them to browse, select, and book rooms or services with just a few taps, offering a more convenient and efficient process than traditional booking methods.
With a mobile app, your hotel is accessible to potential guests 24/7. This means customers can make reservations at any time, regardless of business hours, catering to the needs of a global and diverse audience across different time zones.
Instant booking confirmation
Mobile apps enable real-time booking confirmation, providing customers with immediate assurance that their reservation is secured. This instant confirmation feature contributes to customer satisfaction and builds trust in your hotel's services.
Efficient management of reservations
Hotel staff can benefit from a mobile booking app as well. It simplifies the reservation management process, reducing the chances of overbooking or errors. This efficiency can lead to better customer service and operational effectiveness.
Integration with loyalty programs
Integrate your mobile app with your hotel's loyalty program to reward repeat customers. Offer exclusive discounts, perks, or loyalty points for app users, encouraging customer loyalty and repeat bookings.
Effective marketing strategy
A mobile app provides hotel owners with loads of data. They can source valuable insights into how people come to purchase their services, how often customers visit, how much they spend, how they interact with the hotel services, etc. These allow hoteliers to enhance guest experiences and adjust their strategy for better performance.
The main features of an MVP for a mobile booking app should or may include:
Streamlining access for personalized experiences
The first step towards a seamless travel booking experience begins with user registration and login functionalities. By allowing users to create accounts or log in through their social media credentials, the app establishes a foundation for personalized interactions. This feature enhances user engagement and enables storing essential information for smoother future bookings.
Tailoring experiences through personalization
Including user profiles within the app allows travelers to manage their information, track booking history, and set preferences. This feature adds a layer of personalization, enabling users to customize their experience and facilitating a more tailored approach to future travel plans.
The user profile feature on TripAdvisor
Personalized and practical search engine
Navigating possibilities with precision
According to Statista, search is the top reason people use a travel mobile application.
The app should have precise, flexible, and self-explanatory search options. Let’s look at how you can make your search options effective:
Flexible search filters. Search filters should help narrow the results according to user search priority. Booking.com and Skyscanner are prime examples of flexible search options; users can sort search results based on star rating, price range, review score, and popularity.
Example of flexible search options
Personalized suggestions. It’s helpful for your product to have personalized recommendations based on the user’s online booking history. If a particular location has already been visited, it’s good to suggest visiting a similar place.
Accessibility and visibility. Search options should be easy-to-access and visible. Compare searching for accommodation on the map in Airbnb and Booking.com. Airbnb indicates the price on the map to choose the location and see the accommodation fees. With Booking.com, the icon of each hotel needs to be clicked to find the accommodation cost.
Example of accessibility and visibility feature
Content prioritization. A search results page should be designed according to your business interests. See how differently Booking.com and Skyscanner search results are displayed.
Booking.com presents more items (with small images of properties) on a single screen than Skyscanner. The latter offers large photos with only the most basic information. The difference is a result of their different goals.
With its powerful metasearch engine, Skyscanner connects travelers with airline websites or with hotels and OTAs. The main purpose is to inspire and attract users to visit a service provider’s website. Booking.com has a different booking system, as it is a direct reseller. Its main objective is to have users make flight and hotel bookings immediately. As a result, there are more detailed offers on Booking.com.
Showcasing choices at a glance
The heart of any travel booking app lies in its accommodation listings. Displaying a curated list of available options with pertinent details such as prices, amenities, and user ratings allows users to make informed decisions. This feature is the focal point where users can begin visualizing and selecting the perfect stay for their travel adventures.
Booking and in-app payments
Secure and convenient financial transactions
Ideally, the booking process should take a few swipes and clicks. Users should be able to pay safely using a preferred method: debit or credit cards, PayPal, Braintree, Stripe, Apple Pay, Google Pay or another payment option. Touch ID or Face ID would make future bookings quick and secure with the payment data entered once and stored in the app. Customers should also be able to easily apply their points, discounts, bonuses, and promo codes. Once they have paid for the accommodation, they should receive an online receipt which can be shown at the hotel reception. Don’t forget about an opt-out allowing customers to pay at check-in.
Example of in-app payments feature
Reservation System and Reservation modification/cancellation
Seamless reservations for stress-free planning
The core functionality of any travel booking app is the ability to facilitate reservations. A user-friendly booking system allows travelers to easily select dates, choose accommodations, and secure their reservations. This feature ensures a hassle-free and efficient process, giving users confidence that their travel plans are confirmed in just a few taps.
Empower users to modify reservations. Travelers will also appreciate free cancellation until the last 24 hours.
Facilitating instant and convenient communication
The in-app messaging feature enables real-time communication between users and service providers within the mobile booking app. Users can ask questions, seek assistance, or make special requests directly through the app. This fosters a convenient and immediate channel for customer support, enhancing the overall user experience.
Useful push notifications
Timely and relevant alerts that provide valuable information
Travelers, especially when using last-minute booking services, expect an immediate response from the booking app.Useful push notifications serve as timely and relevant alerts that keep users informed and engaged. These notifications may include booking confirmations, reminders for upcoming reservations, special promotions, or personalized recommendations based on user preferences. By providing valuable and context-aware information, useful push notifications contribute to user satisfaction and encourage continued app engagement.
The technology stack impacts many hotel booking app development aspects. The chosen technologies will largely determine whether your mobile app will be scalable, secure, maintainable, and perform well. It will also directly impact your budget and time-to-market.
Below we prepared a list of reliable technologies and tools that allows you to build a robust, reliable booking mobile app with a competitive advantage and future growth prospects.
Read Also: The Best Mobile App Tech Stack in 2024
This chapter will concentrate on travel-specific aspects and clear up crucial details to build a workable and prosperous product for your hotel business.
Have a product discovery stage
The hotel reservation app development process should start with identifying the main idea of your project and determining its requirements. Solid project requirements provide a clear picture of the work that should be done. And this picture is a key to specifying the required steps for achieving needed results.
For example, at Onix, we start our booking app development with a product discovery stage. This stage allows us to determine project complexity and features to develop, test the market viability, establish deadlines, and plan a project. The product discovery phase enables us to organize smooth and timely product development and stay on the same page with our clients.
Define a booking app type your business needs
- OTAs. These online services allow clients to have multiple booking options: flight tickets, hotels, car rentals, etc. Trip.com, Hopper, and KAYAK belong to this type of app.
- Aggregators. The primary purpose of hotel aggregators and similar mobile apps is to garner information from respective service providers and share it with users. The best-known hotel aggregators are Booking.com, Hotels.com, and TripAdvisor.
- Brand/chain apps. Individual hotel businesses, airlines, bed and breakfasts, car rental companies, and other service providers develop these apps. Hilton Honors and Marriott Rewards are good examples.
The app type depends on your business objectives. For instance, if you’re a hotelier, you might partner with local businesses to offer your patrons the ability to rent a car or arrange a fishing trip from your app. If you’re a tech entrepreneur, you can aim to create a booking aggregator like Airbnb or an OTA app.
Create a unique value proposition (UVP)
Winning potential users comes down to a UVP and proper positioning. Here’re some worthwhile models for consideration:
- Last-minute booking deals. Booking.com, Travgo, and HotelTonight are some of the companies that offer this UVP.
- Cheap booking options. Many tourists, especially millennials, are either looking for the cheapest flight and stay options or feeling excellent about it. HostelWorld, HostelBookers, and other companies have chosen this model to target low-cost travelers.
- Room sharing/Apartment rental. Airbnb adopted both room-sharing and short-term apartment rental business models.
- Short stays. Some people need to stay no longer than one night while traveling. For instance, Dayuse.com offers one-day booking at a cheaper rate.
- Peer-to-peer model. The Couchsurfing app assists thrifty travelers with free stays, but it’s also about cultural exchange and friendship. So is Locali, an upcoming mobile app whose design was created by Onix. The app marries Tinder and Foursquare City Guide, enabling tourists to explore cities and connect with locals and other travelers.
Build an admin panel
Admin panel is part of every mobile booking app. The lack of a well-thought-out tailored solution makes it difficult to manage all listings and trace essential data.
Before building a hotel booking application, you have to consider vital things:
- the cost of the user-facing part of the product
- expenses on the admin panel and infrastructure solutions
- cloud-based storage integration implies using incorruptible data storage methods. A booking app that uses cloud-based storage to store and retrieve information protects it from hackers and helps secure the users’ privacy.
Protect user data
Security is crucial, especially in the booking app, since it uses users' private data and holds payment processes. Every business is vulnerable to hacking, especially a lot of fraud in the online tourism business. However there are some best practices you can follow to prevent security issues and keep your app security at the highest level. Let's look at them:
- Data encryption. One of the essential steps in developing a secure booking app is to encrypt data. When users fill in their payment details to confirm a booking, you should encrypt the data they enter. Encryption algorithms encode data into ciphertext, hiding the actual content.
- High-level authentication and strong passwords. You can apply multi-factor authentication (one-time codes, voice, face, and fingerprint recognition) or ask users to reset their passwords every two months. Moreover, it's better to limit the number of login attempts to avoid all the credit card and customer details leakage.
- Comply with local legal compliances. For example, there is a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a regulation in EU law that requires tight security measures to protect the processing of personal data. The Onix team has vast experience in travel app development. We know how to ensure your booking app complies with all legal requirements of local policies in which it will operate.
- Regular and frequent testing. Make sure you test your booking app at every stage of the development process to ensure a high level of protection and avoid security problems in the future. For example, our QA engineers run penetration tests to simulate attacks for catching security flaws and vulnerabilities.
Prepare an effective monetization strategy
You can drive revenue via your mobile bookings app using one or several monetization models. Knowledge of the target audience is paramount when the methods are selected.
Here’s a list of standard monetization models for mobile travel apps:
- Marketplace. You can charge fees to hotels and other service providers that wish to operate on your platform.
- Service fee. You may charge a fee for every booking made via your application. Booking.com charges hotels and apartments that users book, while Airbnb charges a commission to users.
- Advertising. For example, hotels may pay for advertising on your platform if they desire to be in the top search results in a single query (e.g., city or region).
- Subscription. You can offer a subscription to users if they want to access more exciting offers and discounts.
- In-app purchases. If your app is free, offer a premium version with more features or without ads.
Choose the model that matches your business goals. Consider multiple monetization models to maximize your revenue.
The cost of mobile app development for a hotel business is comprised of various factors such as:
- Type of booking app
- Number of required features
- The complexity of the project
- The platform you’re opting for (iOS, Android)
- Mobile app development approach (native or cross-platform)
- Needed technologies (languages, libraries, frameworks, AI, VR, etc.)
- Team size
- Cost of deployment and support
- Cooperation model (find an outsourcing company, hire freelancers, create in-house development team)
To estimate the total hotel booking app development cost, you also have to consider the number of specialists you need that may vary depending on the type of application, the number of features, and the project’s complexity.
Moreover, the development cost depends on the country where services are offered and the development company rate. Below, we gather the average rates of IT specialists from different countries and compare their hourly rates.
To give you a general idea of how the app costs are estimated, let's take a look at the example below. We show you how much it might cost to build an MVP version of a native mobile booking app. We consider only the main features to calculate roughly how much the app design and development will cost.
Note: This is only an approximate example of cost. Prices are calculated individually depending on the type of your application, whether it's a development from scratch or an old version update, what development approach you need, the technologies required, and many more factors.
We've considered the approximate cost of developing a hotel booking app. But remember that the amount depends on your requirements and the project's specifics.
If you want to calculate your app development costs, share your app idea with us, and we'll be in touch shortly.
With extensive expertise in travel booking service development, our company has successfully contributed to notable projects, exemplified by TravelBid.com — an innovative booking platform tailored for travelers in Cyprus.
Onix’s experience in building a travel booking system
TravelBid.com allows users to secure exclusive deals and personalized offers unavailable elsewhere effortlessly. Local travel and hospitality businesses benefit by presenting special deals during periods of low demand without compromising market-average pricing on popular booking engines such as Booking.com or Expedia.
Misterb&b is one of Onix’s oldest ongoing projects. Initially, the client presented an existing website and mobile apps that required refinement.
A travel booking app by Onix
Onix's specialists played a pivotal role in:
- Improving app functionality, increasing product capacity, and expanding functionality using reliable technologies.
- Enlarging the listing base and business opportunities through effective integration with renowned aggregators and providers such as Booking.com, Rentals United, Guesty, Ospita, and BookingSync.
- Enhancing the search experience through a vast database of over 2 million property listings, incorporating various filters.
- Automating financial processes to bolster payment security.
- Implementing a fraud detection system heightens overall security, identifying illicit and high-risk activities such as suspicious credit card transactions, theft, cyber hacking, or scam messages
The resulting platform, once called the "gay Airbnb" by Forbes, is considered the world’s largest gay hotelier with 900K+ members and 1 million accommodations in 200 countries.
The proliferation of mobile devices offers hospitality businesses unique opportunities to reach out to and serve customers throughout their journey. By adopting a multi-channel approach, they can engage travelers easier with enhanced features on mobile apps and provide a convenient guest experience before and after the stay.
Hoteliers can hope for a bigger slice of the mobile booking pie with the right technological approach and app features in place. Onix has extensive experience building web and mobile applications, including custom travel and hospitality solutions. Let’s build the winning hotel booking app for your company together!
- How to create a booking app for my business?
To create an online booking mobile app for your business, follow these steps:
- Define your requirements. Clearly outline the features and functionalities you need in your app, such as appointment scheduling, calendar integration, and push notifications.
- Choose a development approach. Decide whether you want to develop a native app (iOS and Android) or a hybrid app. Each approach has pros and cons based on your specific needs and budget.
- Select a technology stack. Choose the programming language, frameworks, and tools that align with your development approach. Popular choices include React Native, Flutter, or native development using Swift (iOS) and Kotlin/Java (Android).
- Create a hotel booking mobile app design. Create a user-friendly and intuitive hotel mobile app design that makes it easy for customers to book appointments and navigate the app.
- Integrate payment and security features. If applicable, integrate secure payment options and ensure customer data is handled with the utmost security.
- Testing. Thoroughly test your app to identify and fix any bugs or issues before launching it to the public.
- How much does it cost to build a mobile booking app?
Hotel app development cost can vary widely based on several factors, including the app's complexity, features, platform (iOS, Android, or both), development approach, and the region or country where the development team is based.
As a rough estimate, developing a simple mobile booking app could range from $10,000 to $50,000. More complex apps with advanced features could exceed $100,000 or more. Remember that these figures are general estimates, and the actual cost can vary based on the abovementioned factors.
- What ongoing maintenance is required for a mobile booking app?
Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure your app functions smoothly. This includes:
- Bug fixes. Address any reported bugs or issues promptly.
- Updates. Keep the app updated with new features, improvements, and security patches.
- User feedback. Act on user feedback to enhance the user experience and address any concerns.
- Security checks. Regularly assess and reinforce the app's security measures to protect customer data.