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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
Many travel startups focus their attention on hotels as they’re more lucrative than flights and there is more room for innovation. It’s a lesson that Hipmunk appears to have learned and is now working through it without abandoning its original flights product.
The Hipmunk booking experience just got a little better. Users can now optionally book hotels directly on Hipmunk’s mobile and web platforms, and they’ll experience a smoother booking experience.
Customers will be able to purchase hotels with fewer clicks once they opt for the “Book on Hipmunk” button. Previously, users were passed off to an OTA or hotel site when they completed their Hipmunk search and wanted to book.
The move toward direct bookings comes as a logical step in the growth of the hotel and flight metasearch site. Kayak and Room77 also launched direct bookings during a similar growth stage.
Impact of direct bookings
Hipmunk’s direct hotel bookings will be powered through a partnership with the Expedia Affiliate Network. Hipmunk will save customers’ credit card information in their Hipmunk account and send the confirmation emails, but EAN will be the merchant of record and handle all customer service on a white-label basis.
Hipmunk CEO Adam Goldstein says the company is working to add more back-end partners to power the ‘Book on Hipmunk’ option over time.
How does Hipmunk expect direct bookings will influence sales?
“Primarily, we expect an improvement in satisfaction and conversion rate. When people can book directly through Hipmunk, they’re more likely to follow through and complete a booking,” says Goldstein. “It’ll be a smoother experience so people feel like this is the only app they need to use.”
The added functionality is also expected to increase the number of bookings on mobile, where 25 percent of current purchases are made.
The year of Hipmunk hotels
“Overall, 2013 is focused on improving the hotel product,” says Goldstein.
Hotels are a more lucrative business than airlines, with more space for innovation. Goldstein is quick to say; however, that Hipmunk is a full-service travel search site and that the team will continue to improve the flight product while growing its hotel business.
Along those lines, Hipmunk also announced partnerships with Expedia and Priceline that give customers more options of where to book flights. In addition to booking directly on airline websites, users will be able to click “Book on Priceline” and “Book on Expedia” buttons.
Direct bookings roll out today to all desktop users, and will be available on the iOS and Android apps in the coming weeks, Hipmunk says.