The tonight-only hotel space in Europe is hardly even beginning to take shape, and there will be plenty of room for several players. But it is getting interesting now.
Just weeks after HotelTonight picked up an additional $45 million in funding and Groupon acquired Madrid-based Blink, two other Spain-based tonight-only hotel apps, Hot Hotels of Malaga and ReallyLateBooking of Madrid, are joining forces.
Conor O’Connor, the CEO of Hot Hotels, tells Skift his company has acquired ReallyLateBooking, a move that strengthens Hot Hotels’ position in Europe.
With 750,000 combined downloads between Hot and ReallyLateBooking on iOS, Android, and Blackberry devices, and 3,500 directly contracted hotels, plus other hotel inventory from third parties including Booking.com, O’Connor says the merged companies offer curated, tonight-only hotel deals in some 200 cities in 30 countries in Europe and Southeast Asia.
“We think we are still very early in this industry and there is a lot more consolidation to happen, and we are beginning to see the early parts of that,” O’Connor says.
While O’Connor claims that the acquisition, the terms of which were not revealed, makes Hot Hotels “the undisputed leader of last-minute mobile hotel booking in Europe,” there is skepticism among some about the significance of the move.
After all, Hot Hotels and ReallyLateBooking now have a combined team of 11 people, and Hot Hotels hasn’t raised any real money beyond its initial self-funding. O’Connor says, though, that the company is “financially ahead of expectations,” and aims to raise funding by the end of the year.
O’Connor says Hot Hotels will retain the ReallyLateBooking brand for now, and will determine later whether to stick with a multi-brand strategy.
If the competition comes from public company Groupon, now allied with Blink, and HotelTonight with its $80.85 million in total funding and plans to raise its workforce to 200 people within a year, O’Connor says HotelTonight, at least, has had a hard time finding its footing in Europe.
“They are doing lots of things right,” O’Connor says of HotelTonight, but points to HotelTonight’s presence in just five Spanish markets after nearly six months of trying while the new Hot Hotels offers tonight-only properties in 48 cities in Spain.
“Spain, specifically, is a market where competitors were already live before we launched,” says Heather Leisman, who leads HotelTonight’s Europe operations. “However, their strategy was to provide broad coverage, and they used third-party relationships to launch quickly in a number of destinations.”
Leisman argues that this strategy hasn’t been overly successful and that competitors in Spain “are seeing extremely low booking volumes.”
HotelTonight, meanwhile, indeed has a small presence in Europe, but has just hit the 2 million download mark outside the U.S., and is close to 7 million overall.
Hot Hotels, founded in late 2011, admits it owes a lot of inspiration to HotelTonight, and argues it knows Europe better and will prove “more agile and scrappy.”
With well-funded players competing in Europe now in the tonight-only arena, there is definitely a big scrape coming, although it will take time to develop.
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Photo credit: Photo illustration of Hot Hotels app for iOS. PlaceIt by Breezi