Mobile App Development: Complete Guide for Hotels

So, you run a hotel chain and want to develop a mobile app to win tech-savvy travelers? Considering the fact that 60% of customers are more likely to choose a smartphone-enabled hotel over a traditional location, we have only one thing to say to you: go for it! How much does it cost to create a hotel app and what features should it have to increase occupancy rates and justify mobile development expenses? When it comes to hotel apps, entrepreneurs treat mobile as another opportunity to simplify boking process and subsequently fail to deliver the ultimate guest experience. Guess why?
Booking apps is an overcrowded market. With HotelTonight, One Night and Airbnb, your potential customers don’t need another brand app eating their smartphones’ storage. Pavel, Head of iOS App Development Unit at R-Style Lab, believes hotel chains should look beyond booking apps and create full-scale hotel solutions similar to RoomAssistant instead.

The importance of mobile technology in hospitality industry: since 2012, US mobile digital travel sales have grown by over 800%!

Must-have features for a hotel application

Although luxury hotels often splurge on IoT-powered room management systems and smart doors which use the facial recognition technology, complex software and hardware solutions have a steep learning curve and cost a fortune. According to Pavel, small and medium-sized hotel chains should make the most of the available resources – that is, their customers’ smartphones.
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Note: a hotel app is in fact a four-tier system that features a website built with UX in mind, a reliable server supporting app logic, admin console which enables hotel companies to manage content (for example, add new locations and update booking data) and native iOS/Android apps.

The key features of such apps include:

  • Hotel search (your guests should be able to filter hotels by city, date of arrival, length of stay, hotel star rating, room price, meal plans, pet-boarding options, etc.).
  • Gallery (featuring detailed descriptions and HQ images of locations on your list).
  • Room reservation (the module allows users to book a hotel room, as well as confirm, adjust or cancel reservations).
  • Notifications (you should inform customers of special offers, available bookings and services that might be of interest to them).
  • Payments (that is, full and partial payment options with PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and credit cards).
  • Social features (including login in/sign up via social network accounts, comments and customer ratings, referral system elements, etc.).
  • User profile (which ensures payment transaction security and allows business owners to collect user data and reward loyal customers).
Bookings aside, what features will help you deliver the ultimate guest experience and secure your place in the competitive market?
What you need is a client-centered application enabling users to contact reception specialists (live chat), order meals, book a taxi and perform other activities that normally require face-to-face/over the phone interactions with hotel personnel. You can go even further and allow guests to pay for accommodation and associated services via the app or create a mobile-based customer loyalty system.

Why do forward-thinking hotels invest in new tech including mobile apps for hospitality industry?

Mobile App Development for Hotels: Cost Estimation

Technology-wise, hotel apps use:

  • On-prem or cloud-based servers which support app logic and secure user data (the PHP/MySQL tech stack).
  • Facebook/Twitter/Instagram Software Development Kits (SDKs) facilitating social sharing and login.
  • The Socket.IO library enabling real-time messaging.
  • Google Map SDK for hotel search.
  • Stripe/PayPal kits supporting secure mobile payments.
The development and deployment of these features usually takes up to 12 weeks; the booking modules account for 60% of the entire time frame. If you address a US-based software vendor (they charge $150 per hour), a single-platform booking app will cost you about $150 thousand. Provided you outsource mobile and custom web app development to an Eastern European company ($30-35 per hour), you’ll spend anything between $30 thousand and $35 thousand.
Still too much? Consider this.

3 Reasons to Address a Hotel App Development Company ASAP

  • Smartphones are ubiquitous. Over 95% of US population has some kind of a smartphone. By 2020, 56% of US customers will be making in-store mobile payments on a regular basis. 60% of respondents who took part in IndustryView’s 2015 travel and hospitality survey admitted they were more likely to stay at a hotel that supported mobile check-in and used smart door locks. Going mobile is no longer an option – it is essential to business survival.
  • Successful hotels are undergoing Digital Transformation. The world’s best-known hotel companies like Hilton, Arrive Hotel and Starwood offer a wide range of mobile applications enabling customers to book rooms, control HVAC systems and check in using biometric data – and register a 15-20% increase in bookings! According to Lauro Ferroni, Head of Hotel Research at JLL, hotels with solid mobile app usage also reduce operating costs associated with overstaffing. Unless you address a reliable software developing company today, tomorrow your tech-savvy rivals will put your brand out of business.
  • Customers see technology as the future of guest experience. 83% of customers would like to access hotel promo content (including data on services and special offers) on their smartphones. Millennials and Centennials (who officially overtook Baby Boomers as the largest US workforce and buying power) look to Facebook for travel inspiration and typically book holidays on mobile or tablet (46%). What’s more, 40% of consumers believe new technology will eventually make travelling cheaper – thanks to digital keys, smart water meters, sensor-powered lighting systems, lobby touchscreens and other solutions that allow hotels to use the available resources more efficiently.
US customers now spend 5 hours a day on mobile devices (with mobile apps consuming 92% of the time). Half of US digital travel payment transactions happen on mobile. Building a brand hotel app is your only chance to promote your company to younger audience.
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