Instead of typing out a free-form hotel experience review on your laptop once you get home from your trip, or struggling with your smartphone’s virtual keyboard for several long paragraphs, Hotel Tonight has a better idea: just use photos. A new feature, that the mobile hotel booking app is introducing on Wednesday, is called Snap Your Stay.
Empty rooms are an hotelier’s worst nightmare: paying staff at a half-empty hotel can quickly drain finances. In Spain occupancy rates for the eight months to August 2012 were only 56%; by one estimate each of the country’s hotels loses €1.5m ($2m) annually due to empty rooms. Spread across the Spanish hospitality industry, unoccupied rooms take away €14.6bn ($19.5bn) of revenue. Any opportunity to reduce that loss is warmly welcomed by hoteliers.
A clutch of new smartphone apps promises to do just that. They offer discounted last-minute hotel bookings. Vacant rooms are released on the day, a day in advance or up to a week before travel to the app, which allows users to filter hotels by city, cost and quality. The operators of the app take a cut of the price, usually around 15%.
The latest such service is Hot Hotels, which launched in Spain in early 2012 and recently expanded into Britain. More than 100,000 people have downloaded the app, which lists hotels in 21 countries, including Peru, Andorra and Colombia. Most users are business travellers and people in their twenties and thirties who often decide the night before to go on a trip, explains Conor O’Connor, the firm’s co-founder. Half of those who book a hotel through the app use it again, he says.
The pioneer of the business, however, is HotelTonight, which was founded in December 2010 in San Francisco. Three rounds of venture funding have brought in $35m, which has allowed the start-up to expand into Europe in June 2012. Each day at noon local time, the service releases a new set of deals. It is now available in ten countries and boasts more than 4m downloads.
Shank launched HotelTonight in 2010 as a way for consumers to book last-minute hotel rooms directly from their mobile phone. The team wanted to solve a problem they had encountered many times in the past. “When I was building my second company, I kept thinking ‘Why isn’t there a great app for booking a hotel room?’ It was all the structural weaknesses that the big hotel booking companies had that caused them to adapt their websites to the mobile platform rather than building a really great app from the ground up. It’s all about immediacy, and doing things on demand. Get me into a hotel right away. I felt the advantages we have as a startup building from the ground up would be pretty intense, and I think we could go against this $100-billion competition and build something people really love.”
When Sam Shank began HotelTonight, a last-minute hotel booking app, two years ago, he thought its typical user would be a business traveler in need of a place to lay her head.
Turns out the app also appeals to impulse travelers, with some booking rooms at 2 a.m. for that night (or rather morning).
“They said, ‘Hey, instead of going home tonight, let’s do a hotel stay,’ ” Mr. Shank said. “That’s something we’ve set as a company goal: to make the world a more spontaneous place.” For revelers scrambling to make plans for New Year’s Eve, below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Shank on booking (very) last-minute travel.
HotelTonight, the app that provides access to special deals for hotel rooms available that very evening, is making a couple of announcements today.
For one thing, the company says that it’s making its first move into continental Europe, with hotel listings in Paris, Nice, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
HotelTonight just announced that it has acquired restaurant startup PrimaTable. This is the hotel booking company’s first acquisition. As the name implies, HotelTonight allows you to find a hotel, well, tonight. It launched a redesigned app a couple of weeks ago. Co-founder and CEO Sam Shank tells me that when he started talking to PrimaTable, it was like “a mind meld” — in part, because the companies were working on very similar problems (filling “perishable, last-minute inventory”) in different industries.
We first covered same-day hotel-booking app HotelTonight way back in early 2011, when it launched initially for iPhones. Well, a lot has happened since then. It hit Android last summer, before being rolled out for iPads earlier this year, which geared it up nicely for its first tentative steps outside of the US market, first in Toronto and then London in June. Oh, and it also recently secured $23 million Series C investment, led by US Venture Partners with continued participation from Accel Partners, Battery Ventures and First Round Capital – this took its total funding to more than $35m. Now, we’re told that the San Francisco-based company has notched up a cool 3 million app downloads across all platforms, as it rolls its service out to ten new cities.
Sam Shank founded HotelTonight a year and a half ago. Since then he's raised $36 million from investors for his mobile app.Hotel Tonight is available on Android, iPad and iPhone devices. It works with 1,500 hotels across 45 cities to bring heavily discounted room rates to mobile devices.
HotelTonight, the last-minute discounted hotels booking app, is bringing its service to the UK, with an initial service in London launching today. In addition, Heather Leisman, most recently of the troubled Jetsetter travel startup, has joined as MD for Europe. The company has also opened its London-based office in the Shoreditch area of East London, widely acknowledged to be home to the largest single cluster of tech companies in the city. Additional cities in the UK and Europe are being planned.
Shank says hotel bookings are moving from web to mobile.
When I stare at my cellphone, with all of its e-mails, to-do lists and calendar appointments, I often feel as if the device is conspiring with forces in my life to schedule everything down to the last minute, leaving little room for, say, an impulsive trip out of town. But an app called HotelTonight is based on the opposite idea that smartphones are ideal for creating last-minute plans.
Last-minute hotel booking startup HotelTonight just announced that it raised a $23 million Series C round led by U.S. Venture Partners (USVP). The financing includes existing investors Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, and First Round Capital. In addition to the funding, HotelTongiht will be adding USVP general partner Rick Lewis to its board of directors.
The Future of Travel Booking, Interview with Hotel Tonight's Sam Shank
Last-minute accommodation booking service HotelTonight is about to embark on its first international expansion, adding a London office for a push into Europe, and launching in Toronto and Vancouver. The super-slick app has been exclusive to the US since its founding in 2010.
“In the Studio” welcomes today a successful, repeat founder in the travel space who has started and sold a company already, hails from a family of entrepreneurs, and who caught the travel bug early in life and decided to to mix his pleasure with business for his care.
Sam Shank, co-founder and chief executive officer of Hotel Tonight, talks about his company's free iPhone app for day-of hotel room bookings. He talks with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West."
For the past few weeks, I've been testing two digital tools that use distinct criteria for booking hotel rooms: HotelTonight and Room 77. HotelTonight aims to get people into rooms no matter how late they book, and Room 77 wants to get people into the specific room they want.
HotelTonight, a mobile app that offers deep discounts on same-day hotel deals, has landed a big fish for its marketing chief—Travelocity executive Beth Murphy.
As Paul Carr and I have written endlessly, we’re big fans of anything disrupting the hotel industry in a simple way that with a clear user value that doesn’t try to be all things to all people.
San Francisco-based HotelTonight, which has an iPhone application that allows you to book last-minute hotel deals on the same day you are looking, has raised $3.25 million in a first round of funding.
HOTEL TONIGHT - Book in the Moment