The last-minute hotel booking via a mobile model is heating up, with Hotel Tonight opening up operations outside of North America for the first time with a dedicated service for visitors to London.
The extension of the site to the UK capital puts the California-based company up against fellow startup in the sector, Europe-focused Blink Booking, VeryLastRoom¬†and¬†JustBook, and a similar service from accommodation powerhouse in the region,¬†Booking.com.
CEO Sam Shank says the move is designed to spearhead its expansion into Europe, with ex-Jetsetter exec Heather Leisman becoming managing director for the company in the continent.
Trying new markets will not come as a huge surprise given that Hotel Tonight has stated its desire to launch overseas following its capital raise of $23 million from US Venture Partners earlier this month.
And with an overall warchest of almost $36 million, Hotel Tonight is clearly setting its sights on rolling out the model to as many cities it can.
Shank says the same-day booking model has the potential to work even better in Europe than in North America as consumers are “more spontaneous”. Also, the abundance of independent hotels (as opposed to large chains) in Europe gives it more options for potential hotel partners.
Both Hotel Tonight and Blink Booking (which secured its own $2.5 million funding round in May this year) have talked up the so-called supplier-friendliness of the same-day booking system.
Blink co-founder Rebeca Minguela says the company has “almost a 100% retention rate” with hotels, with those undergoing a change in management and review of marketing strategy counting for those that have stopped using the service.
Shank says Hotel Tonight has a similar retention rate of over 95%.
But while the newbies in the shape of Hotel Tonight and Blink Booking are concentrating their efforts by mostly adding only what they consider relevant hotels to their respective systems, Booking.com’s push into last-minute booking via a mobile is taking the so-called scatter-gun approach by taking as much product from its existing database of hotel partners.
To go up against the free-spending giant that is Booking.com, at least in terms of customer acquisition, will take a fair dose of marketing (mobile marketing, especially, says Shank), PR and word-of-mouth – the latter, Shank says, being a major factor in its growth in the US and Canada.