Technology

HotelTonight lands in Aus to disrupt OTAs

Hannah Edensor

Have you ever been caught in a city without a room? Or decided too late that you’d like to crash in a crisp hotel bed?

HotelTonight, originally an American invention but today kicking off down under, is the app that will change all of this, disrupting the way we book hotels.

With 13 million downloads globally, the goal is simple: Plan less, live more.

Spontaneity is the foundation of this company, with savings of up to 50% off hotel rooms, which only goes downhill the later it gets, with hotels dropping the prices as the check-in date approaches and the room remains unbooked.

“We like to shake things up for people and make travelling a little more spontaneous and fun, and this is what people get hooked on when they start using the app,” regional director for Asia Pacific Stefan Cordiner said.

“We’re the experts in last minute.”

Speaking to Travel Weekly at a sneak preview launch earlier this week, Cordiner said the app was looking to change the way people booked hotels, with 90% of guests staying at hotels never having stayed there before.

“We’re not responding to any trends, we’re creating them.”

Only 15 hotels are showcased at any one time, with low prices, high quality and guest reviews determining which hotels will be on offer on any given day.

“In essence, HotelTonight curates the content for consumers to make sure that the hotels shown are not only the best offers currently available, but that they are also geographically relevant,” Cordiner said.

And while it’s great for the consumer, what about online travel agents operating in the same arena?

Cordiner is firm in the app’s role of disrupting the industry, and filling a gap for travellers the world over.

“Keeping a good relationship with OTAs has never been a goal at HotelTonight, we are here to disrupt that traditional model that has existed for so long,” Cordiner said.

“We focus on two key things: Providing hotels with a guaranteed income channel and the ability to sell their remaining rooms that would otherwise have gone unsold, and providing consumers a seamless, curated experience when looking for a last minute hotel or the ‘accommodation’ element of their spontaneous lifestyle.”

The app typically appeals to the leisure traveller, lost in a city without a funky place to stay, or looking for excuses to sneak away for the weekend, with hotels able to be booked anytime from tonight to seven days in advance, but as Cordiner emphasises, “The later you wait, the better the rate.”

But increasingly, the app is going after the business traveller, with elements such as easy last minute bookings, high quality hotels and independent control over the booking critical drawcards for corporates.

“We don’t like to put limits on who the HotelTonight lifestyle mantra can/could/should apply to,” Cordiner said.

“Our app appeals to weekend escape artists, people who need to change plans last minute, business travellers, all ages and demographics. Our app essentially makes spontaneous travel fun, easy and accessible to all.”

“But we increasingly see the individual business traveller taking more control of their experiences with hotels when travelling for work. They want to try new places, see new parts of the city they have to travel to, stay in a better class of hotel while not costing the company more money, be more flexible with their travel schedule, and these elements are catered for perfectly by HotelTonight.”

A range of features come with the launch of HotelTonight, including something known as a GeoRate tool that drops the price lower depending on the close proximity to a hotel.

You can ‘Watch’ a city with the Rate Track tool and get notified when prices drop, meaning bookers can snag even deeper discounts that increase as the day wears on.

And while there are a number of heavyweights in the industry, Cordiner insists the app’s mobile focus gives them the edge they need to compete.

“There are a number of very big players in the online hotel booking industry, and of course we compete for hotel bookings with them on a macro level,” he told Travel Weekly.

“However, we are mobile only, we were born mobile, we understand the needs of the mobile consumer and as a result of this laser focus on the mobile experience, the mobile user and last minute, we feel we stand very much alone in that arena.”

“What also sets us apart is our great relationships with hotels themselves. We do not have minimum room load quotas, we do not strong arm the hotels on pricing etc. The hotel has full control of what they load to HotelTonight, and at what price.”

While the app is currently only launching for the two major markets of Sydney and Melbourne, HotelTonight plans to roll out to the rest of the country, and even across the ditch to NZ, by the end of the year.

“We have already launched a new feature in Australia called ‘Escape’ that helps people identify great places to escape to tonight, this weekend or in a week’s time based on current offers available from hotels and distance from the user at that moment in time,” Cordiner adds.

“We are really excited to be leading the mobile revolution in the global and Australian hotel booking industry.”

HotelTonight is a free app, available for download from the App Store and suitable for iOS, Android and the Apple Watch.

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