Looks like somebody’s short-sheeting the competition.
Hotel Tonight is one suspect. The company just launched two new mobile-only rate-discount programs. It’s a sign that mobile booking has become the standard for people of all ages conducting affairs on their smartphones.
“Hotel Tonight, a private firm with more than $80 million in venture capital, pioneered last-minute smartphone booking in 2010,” notes the Motley Fool in a recent story on the booming trend. “Now, the company faces competition from heavy hitters including Priceline, Booking.com, and Expedia, each of which debuted their own mobile deal programs earlier this month. These new offerings are part of a long-term change in the way travelers book hotel stays, and the companies that stay ahead of the curve are the ones that will come out ahead.”
While Expedia and Booking.com, for instance, started with desktop, Hotel Tonight has always been a mobile service. Now its new “Rate Drop” program avails itself of smartphone location targeting to offer same-day deals near a user’s current location (daily deals roll out about 3 p.m.).
The company also promotes a special booking service for stays up to a week in advance with Bonus Rate program offers and exclusive deals.
Both Expedia and Booking.com introduced new features for their mobile apps in January.
“Expedia spent $650 million last year developing two new tools for member hotels. They allow for real-time guest feedback, and participating hotels can push same-day deals to the Expedia and Hotels.com mobile apps,” the report continues. “Booking.com, meanwhile, debuted a more direct challenge to Hotel Tonight with its new Booking Now mobile app that also customizes near-term offers by user location.”
But it’s true that Hotel Tonight sprinted to the lobby first. The company has had loads of time to expand and promote its apps across Apple, Windows, and Android platforms (for example, Booking Now is only available for the iPhone). Now big battles are being waged by all the players over seemingly small things — like whether it takes users two or three taps to navigate and book a room.
But the smart money is increasingly on smartphones. And it’s a market worth pursuing. American travelers alone dropped more than $167 billion on lodging in the U.S. in 2013 (the global market approaches $400 billion annually). More and more, they want to book those accommodations via phones and tablets.