HotelTonight Pivots Beyond Same-Day Booking As Competition Heats Up

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HotelTonight is planning a major shift to its business model, moving from its same-day booking model to a more flexible offering of seven-day advance booking.

TechCrunch has obtained an email sent from HotelTonight to one of its hotel partners, showing that the startup is planning to let users book hotel rooms up to seven days in advance, although it will continue to offer same-day bookings as well. The new model will let hotels set different prices for same-day and advance booking on different types of rooms, increasing the chances of selling out inventory.

For users, it also seems to make a lot more sense. Perhaps other people are more adventurous than I am, but trusting that I can book a hotel on the same day I need somewhere to stay is too risky for me. With a week’s notice, the same use-case of iffy trips or last-minute emergencies is still covered, while offering a little added security on the side of the user and the hotel.

Here is the wording from the email:

Hope all is well! There are some very exciting changes coming from HotelTonight. We’ve heard loud and clear from our partners that you want more opportunities to sell rooms on HT, and that sometimes waiting until day-of to sell rooms is a less-than-ideal strategy to get to a sellout every night.

I’m excited to announce that on September 30, HT is expanding the booking window to 7 days in order to allow hotel partners to sell more rooms and to sell them earlier. There is much more information to come on these exciting changes, but in the mean time please keep this information confidential. We wanted our best hotel partners to be the first people to know and we trust you to keep this under wraps until September 30.

The first new feature that we’re releasing is the updated HTx extranet, which we’ve rebuilt from the ground up. Our goal is to provide you with an even easier way to view and manage your inventory for the new 7-day booking window. It will have forward-looking pricing guidance for your market but will remain as simple, straightforward and easy to use as always.

HTx goes live Tuesday, September 23rd. I want to make sure that you have everything you need in order to hit the ground running. If you have any questions, I’ve included a couple resources (an intro video and FAQs) to help explain the new booking window and HTx. I’m traveling until next Tuesday, but please feel free reach out with any questions and I’ll be happy to answer them as quickly as I can. We can also schedule a call next week to go over this in more detail.

The company also included a FAQ attachment, embedded below.

HotelTonight was founded in 2010 and has grown to be a powerhouse in the hotel booking space. The company has raised more than $80 million (far more, probably, considering they raised an undisclosed amount in January) and, as of last year, the company has hotels in over 120 cities with more than 6 million downloads of the app. We expect those numbers have grown since.

However, the landscape is changing since HotelTonight launched. A number of competitors have entered the market — competitors like JustBook and Blink (acquired by Groupon) are inching into HotelTonight turf. And a new member in the space, Roomlia, has actually been offering seven-day advance booking since it launched at the end of August.

Competition has surely heated up. But, HotelTonight has seemingly been prepping for this, offering projected pricing for users to see the way prices would change same-day. This obviously has laid the groundwork for a move to advance booking. But it’s also an illustration that some users need reassurance if they’re going to wait for same-day bookings, because otherwise they worry it’ll be sold out or the prices will be out-of-hand.

HotelTonight plans on making this announcement next week, at which point we’ll likely have a better idea of what the consumer side of the app will look like with advance booking.

We’ve reached out to the company for comment and will update if we hear back.