Travelers who are looking to book a hotel at the last-minute should be able to find better deals with travel startup Hipmunk starting today, thanks to the launch of a new feature called Tonight Only.
The feature, which is available in Hipmunk’s mobile app only, will include hotel deals that offer rooms with as much as a 60 percent discount on standard rates. Those deals can be viewed as part of Hipmunk’s general hotel search results (where you should also see slightly-less-last-minute discounts for hotels that are available up to 72 hours in advance), or in the separate Tonight Only section.
Co-founder and CEO Adam Goldstein said the company started to notice that people searching for hotels on Hipmunk fell into two distinct groups — those who booked in advance and those who were looking for last-minute accommodations. The second group is sizable (it accounts for more than 50 percent of searches on Hipmunk’s mobile apps), but the company hadn’t built any features to make their specific experience easier until now.
The idea of last-minute hotel deals isn’t new (indeed, it’s the main focus of startup HotelTonight), but Goldstein said Hipmunk’s approach is different from most deal providers because it aggregates deals from a variety of sources, giving users a broader selection to choose from.
“It’s basically a business model distinction,” he said. “With a big travel company, what makes their business tick is, they are the merchant who is going to process your credit card, who is going to collect your commission. We are a meta-search site and not ourselves a seller of travel.”
In other words, Hipmunk is more than happy to find deals from a number of sites and then pass you on to those sites when you’re ready to make a purchase (though earlier this year it did add direct hotel booking from the Hipmunk site on certain listings).
Goldstein also said that Hipmunk offers a better experience for choosing from these deals because of the broader hotel search features that it has already developed. For example, a business traveler could see how close each of the possible hotels is to their scheduled meetings. Or a leisure traveler could look at Hipmunk’s neighborhood heat maps to see which hotels are in the most desirable neighborhoods.
The launch reflects Hipmunk’s broader focus this year, which Goldstein said is to improve hotel search: “We want to be the best travel site that we can be, and the best travel app that we can be — not just for hotels but also flights and other aspects of travel, as well. But as a small startup, for this year the most important project for us is hotels.” He added that from a business perspective, hotel bookings are much more lucrative than flights.
However, as his statement above suggests, Hipmunk certainly isn’t abandoning the flight search that it was initially known for. In fact, it’s also launching a new Fare Alerts feature today, where users can get alerts (either via email or push notification) about new airfares on itineraries that they want to monitor.
Update: The wording of the post has been tweaked to make it clear that this is only available in Hipmunk’s mobile version, not its website.