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Travelers’ expectations for customer experience have drastically changed over the last decade. People are becoming more and more comfortable searching for hotels or vacation rentals and flight booking via smartphones. The number of online travel booking market users worldwide is expected to increase to 823,6 million in 2023


Today, hotel aggregators, online travel agencies, and hotel websites have to capture omnichannel shoppers that jump between desktop, mobile browsers, and apps. 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.


This article explains how to create a hotel booking app, what features to include, approximate hotel booking app costs, and many more helpful development tips and insights. Please keep reading!



Reasons why hotel businesses should build a mobile booking app

Booking technology and hotel apps influence the decisions of 70% of travelers. The results of building a hotel reservation app for a business may include the following:


  • Enhanced customer experience. Apps with speedy check-in and vital digital functions make late registrations more manageable and prevent lengthy queues at reception. This streamlines the guest experience, increases staff efficiency, and accelerates operations.


  • Cost-effectiveness. Like every automation solution, a mobile hotel reservation app helps save your staff time and cut costs. Reducing the amount of paper printed helps to make your hotel more eco-friendly.


  • Your service is always in your customers' hands. A branded app enables hotel chains to connect with customers directly.  They always have the service right in their pockets and the business logo on their home screens.


  • Great user engagement. Mobile solutions help engage users and drive two-way communication. A branded mobile app can be a powerful marketing tool that allows you to reach out to your audience and win them over. It will create a close marketing group of highly engaged customers. In-app messages, chatbots, push notifications, and emails will encourage room upgrades, restaurant or spa bookings, or other services. The digital extension of your concierge team will conduct conversations with hundreds of in-house and prospective guests.


  • 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.



MVP features of a mobile travel booking app

The main features of an MVP for a mobile booking app should or may include:


Login/registration

Users can register via Facebook account, phone number, or email. To keep your customers’ accounts secure, put appropriate identification, authentication, and authorization measures in place. For example, sign-in with Touch ID and Face ID is also faster and more convenient.


User account

The app should store various customer information, like personal info, credit cards, preferred language and currency, and more. For example, hotels and other hospitality companies can partner with international corporations. Employee benefits companies that provide travel discounts as part of employment benefits packages or professional associations that offer benefits in exchange for membership dues. This information should be in the system.


Customers can see how many points and benefits they earned, determine how to redeem them, and track their progress towards tiers and rewards. They can view their booking history, favorite hotels saved for future quick booking, and wishlist, view and download hotel folios, and receive bonuses, discounts, and personalized offers based on this data.


Personalized and practical search engine

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.

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.


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.


Hotel details

Before making a choice, travelers need a close-up of the hotel room. The app should offer an overview, photo gallery, social media buttons, suggestions, etc. For example, Hilton Honors allows users to pick a room themselves, with street maps helping to find the perfect view. Geolocation should enable directions to the reserved hotel. Immersive videos and virtual tours with 360-degree photos would dynamically showcase hotel suites, halls, and other areas. It’s also smart to present your restaurant menu and offer a table, spa treatments, additional hotel services, and possibly things to do nearby during hotel room booking.


Booking and in-app payments

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.


Reservation modification and cancellation

Empower users to modify reservations. Travelers will also appreciate free cancellation until the last 24 hours.


In-app messaging

Customers may need to contact the hotel directly and send files, e.g., in case of any query or exclusive hotel deals, or if they want food, drinks, or anything else in their room before arrival or before checking out. Human-to-human messaging will enable users to request items and services, ask questions, and solve any problems quickly.


Useful push notifications

Travelers, especially when using last-minute booking services, expect an immediate response from the booking app. It should provide a real-time notification system for hotels and travelers. Besides booking confirmations, the app may send alerts informing/reminding users about check-in and check-out times, changes in rates, disruptions, etc. It may remind users about scheduled activities and upcoming events during the stay and promote special offers, packages, and deals at the hotel’s restaurant or spa.


Required tech stack to build a custom hotel booking application

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.


Essential steps for building a mobile booking app for travel businesses

As a rule of thumb you can follow the checklist below to create a booking app minimum viable product (MVP):


1. Market research, user research, analysis of the best hotel booking apps in your niche, and identification of the future app’s primary concept.


2. Development of a unique value proposition and choice of the distribution areas and platform(s) for the hotel reservation app (if needed).


3. Functional specification and prototyping will help you test and approve ideas with stakeholders and end-users and define the scope of work and budget for your minimum viable product (MVP).


4. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design aiming at intuitive and straightforward user flow and appealing look-and-feel


5. Mobile application front- and backend development. This will include integrations with booking engines, payment gateways, hotel property management system, customer relationship management systems, and other software to ensure your hospitality business's smooth, safe, and error-free sales and operation.


6. Testing at all levels to ensure the hotel reservation app is effective, easy to navigate, and fast.


7. Development of the marketing strategy for your application.


8. Publication on the Apple App Store, Google Play, or other channels where target audiences can download the app.


Read also: Airbnb-like App Development


How to build a hotel booking mobile app: valuable development insights

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 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.


How much does it cost to develop a hotel booking app?

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 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. Take a look at 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.


Wrapping Up

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 travel and hotel booking solutions. Let’s build the winning hotel booking app for your company together!