In the past, when Nirmalya Barua, a 46-year-old Information Technology (IT) professional, needed to book hotel rooms for business or leisure trips, he would go to an organization’s website. online travel agency because it offered a wide range of choices. When researching budget options, he booked through hotel room aggregators, where he was assured of good value for money and no-frills but standardized quality. Lately, he has started to rely on several mobile applications, depending on his needs, which include traveling at the last moment or searching for a room at the desired price. These apps, which negotiate discounts with hotels on behalf of the customer, have recently gained significant attention from travelers.
Book a room at the last minute: Imagine you have to go to a city for a short-term business meeting and you haven’t booked a hotel room in advance. Or, your day trip to a new city is extended at the last minute, leaving you with no overnight accommodation. In all of these scenarios, you can turn to the Nightstay app on your mobile phone.
This platform aggregates unsold stocks from hotels and sells them to last-minute customers at a reduced rate. According to Nasr Khan, Founder and CEO of Nightstay: “Hotel inventory is a perishable commodity. If you don’t sell it today, the unsold inventory will be wasted. We ask hotels to put their unsold rooms on our platform at a reduced rate. Across India, Khan informs, the average hotel occupancy rate is only 61%. In other words, 39 percent of inventory is wasted.
Inventory available for the day is posted on the Nightstay app and website at nine in the morning. From there you can book until midnight. Nightstay has established links with 800 hotels in 12 cities.
The rates you can get at Nighstay are at least 25-30% lower than what you would offer on the hotel’s website. Sometimes, if the supply of unused inventory is high, discounts can reach 40-50% or more (see table).
Nightstay management ensures that the rates on their platform are lower than those offered elsewhere. “If a hotel wants to be showcased by us, it must offer us the lowest rates. We regularly check the rates that others offer for the same hotels. If the prices they gave us are not the lowest, we send a notification. If the hotel still doesn’t make amends, our system stops showing it on the app, ”says Khan.
Until recently, one of the limitations of the Nightstay app was that you could only book on the same day. In addition, your stay cannot extend beyond three nights. “We are targeting the unexpected traveler. In our experience, unscheduled trips usually don’t last more than three nights, ”says Khan. Lately, they have relaxed their rules to allow reservations one day in advance. But in this case, you must book for at least two nights.
Quote your price: Nowadays, some hotel booking apps even allow you to indicate the price you want to pay for a hotel room. Findmystay allows you to do this through what is known as the reverse auction model. Customers first enter the date of stay, city, and sublet, then indicate the price they’re willing to pay for a room.
If you’re a first-time traveler or don’t know the destination, you’ll be wondering what the average price for a hotel room is in this city and locality where you want to stay. To overcome this problem, Findmystay has provided a tool called a “price slider”. “It tells you the average cost of a hotel room in a particular location and of a certain star quality. You can then offer a lower price than this. But, of course, you shouldn’t name one that’s ridiculously low, ”says Simran Sial, co-founder of Findmystay. Then you get a list of hotels that have accepted your price, and you can choose from among them. Sial says travelers can, on average, get a discount of around 30% through the platform. Findmystay covers around 45 cities and offers accommodation in some 4,000 hotels.
To get a good rate, it is advisable to book in advance. “Prices are lower when a large inventory is available and increase as it decreases,” Sial explains. He adds that customers can usually get a good discount by booking seven days in advance.
Big discounts for small businesses: Large companies have their own travel offices. Since they can promise hotels large volumes, they are able to negotiate good discounts. Small businesses do not have the same weight. This is where Savvymob comes from. “We are aggregating demand from a number of small businesses and delivering it to the hotel. If we put 10 of our guests at one hotel, that gives us better rates, ”says Bikram Sohal, Managing Director.
He adds that they can get a price that is at least 20-30% cheaper than what an online travel agency offers. Savvymob is now established in at least a hundred countries and can offer its customers an inventory of around 300,000 hotel rooms. These apps give you rooms spanning the full spectrum, from budget to luxury, in business and leisure destinations.
Guarantee the quality: Besides a good price, another aspect that worries travelers is whether they will have a quality experience in a hotel. Many of these platforms have partnered with TripAdvisor and offer their hotel reviews on their app and website, which you can check out. They also check the hotel’s standards before signing up. “We have a checklist of 20 to 25 criteria. It is only if one hotel exceeds them all that we take it on board. Also, if we get two or three complaints about a hotel, we remove it from our platform, ”says Nightstay’s Khan. For these players, guaranteeing quality is a primary concern since around half of their activity comes from loyal customers.