Skift Take

HotelTonight is seizing the opportunity to become a very large business, and has to ensure that it doesn't lose its elegance and distinct value proposition in the process.

HotelTonight was the first-mover in the mobile- and tonight-only hotel space, and it now is figuring out a way to get bigger by expanding into offering stays up to seven days in advance.

TechCrunch published an email and FAQ from HotelTonight to hotel partners announcing that the changes for customers will go live September 30, and that to accommodate the new seven-day booking window, tweaks to the HotelTonight extranet, HTx, for hotels were to go live yesterday.

HotelTonight had no comment on the published report.

And just as HotelTonight is poised to introduce a seven-day booking window next week, Hot Hotels in Spain, which had been doing tonight-only deals, went live September 25 with a seven-day booking window.

“We´ve been seven days since August in closed beta, but have now made this functionality available to all our users,” Hot Hotels’ Joe Haslam, co-founder and chairman, tells Skift.

On HotelTonight, we were certainly influenced by them at the beginning, but more and more, they seem to be drawing inspiration from our more successful European model,” Haslam says.

From its founding in late 2010, HotelTonight management has prided itself on its focus on last-minute stays, including tonight-only deals, and the ease of use of its apps, which require three taps and a swipe to book a room after an initial registration.

The HotelTonight app and value proposition has been imitated in its broad outlines by startups and established players around the world.

That focus is now apparently changing, starting next week as HotelTonight will put itself more directly in the crosshairs of larger online travel agencies and booking sites.

In the broad scheme of things, HotelTonight, with around 140 employees, is still relatively small in terms of bookings, with one source estimating that the company did around $10 million in bookings in 2013.

HotelTonight would presumably still differentiate itself from larger players if it has decided to stick with its curated approach in offering hotel stays up to seven days in advance, and it would expand its target customer beyond guests who mostly spontaneously were looking for last-minute rooms.

It remains to be seen how the elongated booking window would impact HotelTonight’s apps, approach, and focus.

But the opportunity for HotelTonight to become a larger business certainly would be enhanced by the move.

Even now, before HotelTonight enables bookings of stays seven days in advance, it offers same-day deals that can be extended for up to five nights.

Same-day deals were clearly not a large enough market on their own, and now the booking window gets even longer.

HotelTonight has raised nearly $81 million in total funding, including a Series D round of $45 million in September 2013.

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Tags: apps, hotels, hoteltonight

Photo credit: HotelTonight's iPhone app. HotelTonight

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