The competition in the travel industry is undeniable.
The mobile app industry offers fifties of options to every individual looking to plan a vacation. This current and probable rise in the online travel booking apps has over time created a question mark for the need of traditional travel agents.
To join the action, airlines, hotel chains, and car rental brands have been creating their own applications. This is driving travel agents out of the equation even further.
Launching a new app in this environment of fierce competitive environment would require the OTA (Online Travel Agents) to innovate and differentiate.
In this guide cum article, we will give travel agents the information on how to build a travel booking app that they need to kick start their journey and at the same time set on the journey to become the next Kayak, Expedia or Airbnb.
- Why Develop an App when you have a Travel Mobile Website?
- Top Players of the Travel Booking Sector
- Must-Have Features of Travel Booking App
- How to Get Hotel Listing and Real-Time Flight Details on Your Travel App?
- The Probable Tech Stack of a Robust Travel Booking Application
- How Much Does it Cost to Build Travel App?
- How to Make Money on Your Travel Booking App?
- How to Stand Apart from the Rest in the Crowded Travel Booking Sector?
The ways how applications are changing the travel landscape are unquestionable. Keeping theories aside, even if you look at the point statistically, as to why travelers are using applications, you will find the answer justifying the role of travel mobile apps.
It has been established that travelers need agents to make a mobile presence. But does it automatically translate into them looking for a full-fledged travel booking mobile application? Will a mobile responsive website not work (Afterall, it is much more cost-efficient)?
The answer’s no.
Let us give you the Whys.
Why Develop an App when you have a Travel Mobile Website?
The indecisiveness of whether to choose a mobile website or mobile app is age old. This becomes all the more confusing when you are a startup operating with little budget.
Here are some statistics showcasing the benefits of travel booking app and the reasons behind users’ choice when it comes to choosing between a native experience or hassle-free web experience.
The grounds on which travelers are going with apps over mobile web boils down to the specificity that they can do a lot more with their apps compared to a mobile website:
- Download their boarding pass on device
- Check in through app
- Get push notifications
- Access the information they need offline
- Ease of use is another important reason, with over 28% travelers choosing applications for the comfort of saving preferences, payment information, and other personal data.
Top Players of the Travel Booking Sector
An important part of entering an already crowded space is knowing who you would be sharing the space with. The sector is already dominated by some names that have been setting the objectives and monetization models of the entire industry.
We know how daunting the list might seem. But we guarantee that by the end of this article, you will have pointers that would prepare your OTA business to come next in the list.
Must-Have Features of Travel Booking App
The cost to develop travel app is decided upon the valuation of three segments: the traveler panel, the agents panel, and the admin panel.
All three of them come with their own individual set of features. Let us look into the travel app features in detail:
Customer Panel Features:
A. Search Functionality
Although the functionality is embedded individually in every feature offering, let us look at it individually.
The search functionality is where you should spend a good portion of your efforts. In fact, it It should be extensive enough to make your customers travel every corner of the world, as per the dates of their choice (or at least wherever you offer your service). You should incorporate all search queries and forms that an individual would normally use in their everyday life.
B. Hotels Tab
Using the hotels tab, customers will be able to view the details: accommodation details, room availability on preferred dates, room rent, facilities, ratings and reviews, etc. in a single tap. The rule here is to be as descriptive as possible – enough to leave no room for confusion.
C. Flight Booking Management
Using APIs (discussed in the section), you should give your customers real-time flight details: availability, seating details, single and roundtrip details, etc. The rule here should be to add a wide range of options for customers to choose from.
D. Trip Details
There should be a separate section available to your customers to view their trip history and their upcoming trip details as well. This would help them keep a reference point of their trip details, which they might think of revisiting.
E. Currency Converter
If your app is going to enable customers travel across the world, a currency converter will become must-have. However, ensure that you are updating it in real time to stay clear of any differences in cost at the time of making the booking payments.
F. Contact Support
A key success factor behind every customer loyalty friendly app is ensuring you are available to your end users when they need you. Even if you are unable to be physically present on the communication modes, we recommend having a chatbot in place to answer customers’ basic queries related to their trip.
G. In-App Payment
An important part of the travel booking application is in-app payment. Using a secured mode to integrate in-app payment in the travel booking application, you should give users the ease to make payment against their booking inside the application.
H. Push Notifications
The importance of push notifications are absolutely unignorable when it comes to the travel industry. Your customers will be expected to be notified when a hotel is made available in the location and dates of their choice, any modifications made on their booking, and new offers or promotions.
I. Upsell Features
There are certain factors, which although not must-have but can play an active role in improving the app engagement numbers.
- Bundle Deals: Give customers details in combinations – Flight + Hotel or Hotel + Car deals to streamline their itinerary further
- Car booking feature to make commutation easy in a foreign land.
- A things to do tab, giving customers insight of activities happening in their destination on their trip dates.
- Travel insurance
Property Agents Panel Features:
As important a stakeholder as your end customers will be the travel agents who you would be partnering with. When we say agents here, we mean the hotels or trip planners who would be extending their services to your application.
A. Property and Package Management
The feature should let the property managers or the trip package owners to make modifications in the offering – the date, room availability, number of guests, payment details, etc.
B. Booking Management
It should be in the hands of property managers whether or not they wish to accept or decline the booking request – both in terms of the overall booking and the additional requests made like the choice of smoking/non-smoking rooms.
C. Payment Management
This is the functionality that the property or trip package managers can use to accept payment or make refunds, in addition keeping track of the invoice of the bookings made.
D. Analytics and Report
The managers should be given a dashboard where they can see the insights on their property or package: the number of bookings, reviews over time, payment details, etc. This will help them make better decisions related to the property and the service they are offering.
Admin Panel Features:
A. Users Management
Everything related to the customers – their details, payment details, bookings, etc has to be managed by the app admin. The feature will help them streamline the process of keeping every booking running smoothly.
B. Agents Management
The details of the property, package details, along with the verification of the property and the agent should be handled by the admin on this platform.
C. Advertisement Management
The admin will also be responsible for ensuring the advertisement shown on the application is genuine and that it follows the guidelines set by the parent company.
How to Get Hotel Listing and Real-Time Flight Details on Your Travel App?
Understanding the financial limitations that a startup or lesser known travel agency comes with, we recommend using APIs to kickstart your mobile business.
Our experience of having developed more than 10 travel booking applications, we have been able to curate a list of tested affiliate programs that you can partner with and APIs offering extensive listings.
By signing up to the plans, you will not just be able to save on the efforts to search and partner with hotels but also save on the app development cost – by using their APIs.
In the image shared below, we have mentioned the names of not just the brands offering affiliate programs but also the APIs of open source content sites.
The Probable Tech Stack of a Robust Travel Booking Application
Application & Data – For the mobile version, the travel booking app developers can make use of languages and tools like: Python, Java, Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, Apache Impala, Scala, Kafka, etc.
Location Tracking – This is probably one of the most important elements of the travel booking app tech stack. For a hassle-free user experience, it is important that their location can be tracked.
Cloud – Considering the different types of travel apps and the amount of data they attract, you WILL need cloud access. Quality cloud service providers like Amazon or Google Cloud will not just help you secure terabytes of data but also make the process of information transmission real-time, secure and cost-efficient.
Real-time Analytics – Tracking app performance is an inherent part of any application. By using Google Analytics or Flurry or Localytics, you will be able to remain on top of your app’s movement at all times.
User Verification – For keeping authenticness alive in the application, you should ask your mobile app development company to use Email, Phone, and SMS APIs.
Database – For ensuring robustness, you will have to ensure that the app is backed by well-devised databases. Some of the options that you can choose are: Aerospike, MongoDB, Cassandra, HBase, MySQL, Postgres, etc.
How Much Does it Cost to Build Travel App?
The feature set and technology stack that we covered above are the main factors that impact the travel app development cost.
But these are still not enough to help you estimate the amount you will have to keep aside in the name of travel booking app development cost. There are still a number of pivotal factors to be kept into consideration. The factors affecting travel mobile app development cost.
A. Location of the Agency
The location of the travel app development company you are planning to partner with will play the biggest role in deciding the overall cost. As a general rule of thumb, the average per hour cost keeps declining as you move from Western nation to Eastern nation. The per hour cost that you can expect from Australian or US nation would be $80 – 100k, while the average cost per hour in case of India would be $40 – $80.
B. Backend Architecture Choice
The choice of backend architecture also plays a considerable role in deciding the travel app development cost. When we talk about the backend architecture, we majorly talk about the choice between Monolithic and Microservices. While microservices architecture would be a lot more expensive it will be more scalability and future friendly.
C. Technology Incorporation
To stand apart from the crowd of travel apps, you will have to use innovative technologies to attract the users. If that is your plan as well, be wary that the addition of technologies like AR/VR, Blockchain, IoT etc will bring up the cost to develop travel app.
D. Travel Booking App Design and Development
Mobile app design cost can have a major impact on your overall travel booking app development price range. While ideally, you should incorporate animations and videos to attract users to your application, they come with a cost.
What we advise is starting basic with starter animations and basic vector and then upping your design style, as the app’s popularity and download rates grow.
Noting the factors and functionalities, the overall travel app development cost can be estimated in the range of USD 100,000 to USD 130,000. But, even this would vary depending on your exact black and white requirement.
How to Make Money on Your Travel Booking App?
A. Merchant Model
The model followed by Expedia works in a way that the platform buys (books) hotel rooms in bulk rates and then sells them off to the customers at discounted rates. The model also extends to car rentals, airfares, etc.
B. Commission Fees
Popularized by Booking.com, under the commission fees model you can charge a commission from hotels or tip planners to get listed on the application. This way, for every booking made for the hotel on your platform, you will get a share of the booking.
C. Advertisement Model
This advertisement model works best for small agents or OTAs who are yet to become a big name or are starting with their app journey. Here, you can charge airlines and hotels to advertise in your app under the cost per click model.
How to Stand Apart from the Rest in the Crowded Travel Booking Sector?
Find a New Niche Travel Application Market
Western Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific regions are an all-time favorite for travelers. But being new to the already concentrated market, you cannot afford to not expand and limit yourself to the popular locations.
You can explore new geographical regions on the basis of different demarcations like – Special Events like Oscars or Commonwealth Games; Interests like relaxation, wildfire, or history; etc.
Use Disruptive Technologies to Better Customer Experience
Technology adoption is the travel industry’s blue ocean. For every new OTA who wishes to take over the domination that leading travel apps contain, technology will have to be brought into the equation.
Here are a few examples of how the travel technology trends can help elevate your digital offering.
AI: Using Artificial Intelligence, OTAs can devise their recommendation engine, advising users where to visit next or similar hotels in case their chosen ones are booked.
Blockchain: Inaccurate hotel bookings affects the entire travel experience very negatively. Blockchain, at the back of its immutability feature helps in ensuring that the users don’t ever have to face such an issue.
We recently developed a Blockchain empowered hotel booking application that has been designed to solve the issues of inaccurate bookings and difference in the booking cost by introducing smart contract and cryptocurrency in the mix.
AR/VR: Majorly used to give users a peek inside hotels or giving them details into the key places of interest to visit in a city, AR/VR in travel sector is fresh for innovative use cases. Talk to your AR/VR app development company to make the most of the opportunity.
strategies your digital product..