HotelTonight ExpandsTo The UK, Former Jetsetter Leads The Charge

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.

Speaking at Le Web London, CEO Sam Shank told us: “We’re excited to be part of the tech scene in London and we’ll be acting like a local startup in the way we hire and operate.

So far the partners signed up include hotels such as Belgraves , Blakes Hotel, Chancery Court Hotel,The Cadogan and The Langham, among others. The app launches at an auspicious time: just ahead of the London Olympics. All hotels are personally vetted by HotelTonight staff, and given a style category (like Basic, “Hip” or “Luxe”) and illustrated by mobile-optimized hotel photos.

HotelTonight aims itself at business and leisure travellers, but it’s started to break out into a new category they call “spontaneous locals”. That probably means a little less in the US, but in the UK, where vast swathes of the population drink far too much fairly regularly, “spontaneous drunks who can’t or won’t go home” is probably a more accurate description.

TechCrunch readers (or anyone for that matter) will be able to get £15 off their first booking by using the promo code “UK15”. If you invite friends to try out the app they, you’ll get another £15 when that friend makes their first booking.

For those unfamiliar with the business model, it’s so simple you might just do a facepalm. HotelTonight allows hotels to sell unsold rooms literally on the day only. The offers are location-based, at impulse rates, and thus lift revenue per available room without “impacting brand perception” (making them look cheap, in other words).

In fact it’s a little like Path for Hotels – very mobile oriented, great interface – all the stuff you never get from hotel apps.

HotelTonight recently secured a $23 million Series C investment, led by U.S. Venture Partners with continued participation from Accel Partners, Battery Ventures and First Round Capital. It’s raised $35.85 million in funding to date.

HotelTonight launches into a market largely dominated by the long-time brand which also has a Labs arm pushing apps such as Snaffle. Unfortunately Snaffle has been neglected and only works in one part of London… so it’s not that useful.

Perhaps in its favour is its mobile focus, its rather direct brand name and the fact that North Americans travelling to the UK for the Olympics may well use the app as a means to book their stay.

The startup says its app has been downloaded 2 million times, and covered Canada and the US.