There’s been a rash of mobile apps offering last-minute deals on hotels, for booking on the same day. Perhaps one of the best known is HotelTonight out of the US, which has recently pushed into European markets. But the going is poised to get a little tougher with several similar businesses appearing ever frequently. Launching this week in the UK and Ireland, the Hot Hotels app allows owners to search for and book hotel rooms at extremely short notice when plans change, in the Hotel Tonight model. Rooms can be booked as late as 3am and the app is available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
Just like HotelTonight, users can search for hotels by location, hotels offered are in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff so far. New users get a £10 discount on their first booking and upon inviting other friends to download.
The startup is coming out of Spain, after launching there in March this year, where it clams 50,000 downloads. You can see why that might be.
Conor O’Connor, co-founder of Hot.co.uk, reckons he’s pushing at an open door because one in four hotel rooms in the UK goes unoccupied every night, but often cost a premium if they are booked last minute. Thus this app – and others like it – fills the empty rooms and offers a scout to users at the same time.
But this app launches into a competitive environment. The main competitors are (obviously) Hotel Tonight (US), Blink Booking (Spain) and JustBook (Germany).
And its turning into a war of numbers.
Over at JustBook they are promoting themselves as the business travellers app, adding new cities weekly and now working in seven cities across the UK and Ireland as well as over 30 cities in Europe..
Unusually perhaps, Hot Hotels is 100% owned and managed by the founders while most if not all its competitors have taken VC or Angel investment. Whether that proves a problem when they try to scale fast remains to be seen. Earlier this year HotelTonight raised another $23 million.
Meanwhile they are facing not only Hotel Tonight but also Blink Booking. Co-founded by Rebeca Minguela and Miguel Ortega, this already has a strong footprint in Europe, and has raised $2.5m from PROFounders (whose investors include Brent Hoberman, founder of lastminute.com and Andy Phillipps, founder of Active Hotels), Jeff Clavier’s SoftTech VC and Ballpark ventures (which includes mobile veterans Russell Buckley and Harry Dewhirst).
UK city-wise, Blink launched in Birmingham last week, and they plan to launch Brighton and Glasgow at the start of next week, bringing it up to 8 cities across the UK (9 if you include Dublin). Outside of that they present in 89 cities (114 cities and subareas) in 8 countries in Europe and work with more than 1,000 hotels. In London they have some pretty prestige hotels, such as Hazlitt and the Rookery, among others.
But Blink has something of an ace up it’s sleeve right, now having been downloaded 170,000 times in the Spanish market alone.
Minguela says last minute mobile apps work because existing online booking services remain search driven. She adds that Blink’s direct relationship with hotels something which “separates us from players like Hot Hotels, who are very reliant on inventory from third party platforms.”
But Hotel Tonight does not plan to take all this lying down. A spokesperson told me they will continue to rely on their direct relationships with the hotels, personalisation and sheer number of destinations (also in the US of course).
Whatever the case, it’s likely we’ll see even more players appear in this ‘battle of the last minute hotel’ apps.