Last-minute hotel booking app HotelQuickly — whose founding team includes two ex-Rocket Internet executives — has raised a further $4.5 million in funding as it doubles-down on the Asia-Pacific market — and, perhaps in the longer-term, keep San Francisco-based and heavily funded HotelTonight at bay when and if it enters the region.
The Series A round, which adds to the just over $1 million of external funding previously raised, is being led by the publicly listed Tokyo-based company GREE, best known for its mobile games, with participation from William E. Heinecke, CEO and Chairman of Thai-based Minor International.
Similar to HotelTonight’s model, Hong Kong-headquarted HotelQuickly lets users book “last minute” hotel rooms at heavily discounted prices, via an iOS, BB10 and Android app. Specifically, the app presents a list of up to 6 curated offers, based on a user’s location, which are only available for booking on the same day. Meanwhile, the draw for hotels that partner with HotelQuickly is that it offers an efficient way to shift spare inventory without eating into their existing market or diminishing their brand via overt discounting.
Notably, however, HotelTonight, from which HotelQuickly surely took its inspiration, has yet to enter Asia, despite talking up its aim for “geographic ubiquity,” name checking the region in particular after it raised a further $45 million in a Series D round. Instead, HotelQuickly counts Agoda, a Priceline-owned online travel agent, as its main competitor.
“They are controlling the market to a large extent, making customers think they have the best prices,” HotelQuickly co-founder and CEO Tomas Laboutka tells me. “However, our rates are on average 28% cheaper than what they manage to offer, and luckily, more and more users seem to realize that they can save a good amount of money by booking last minute.”
He also name-checks Europe’s Booking.com as gaining popularity in Asia-Pacific, while in Australia the biggest player is Wotif, which was acquired by Expedia just this week.
“There is no noteworthy last-minute only hotel booking app in APAC yet,” adds Laboutka, “most likely due to the difficult market conditions and the limited availability of reliable infrastructure.” It should be noted, however, that Hot Hotels also operates in Asia.
Either way, and perhaps unsurprisingly, localisation and understanding local market conditions appear to be key.
“Our members travel through the region, and it is a big challenge to offer a product of equal quality in such a diverse and fragmented geography,” says Laboutka. “Localization is utmost important, without it there is limited hope for success. HotelQuickly is localized to 5 Asian languages plus English, and we see most of our bookings coming from members using the app in their native language — simply because English is not (yet) very commonly spoken here in Asia.”
To that end, new investor GREE should help. The company recently launched its own Japan-based, last-minute booking service Tonight, and the investment forms the basis for a partnership between GREE and HotelQuickly aimed at “enhancing their respective services through personnel exchange, the sharing of technical expertise, and other collaboration.”