This week, we’re taking a closer look at apps.

The launch of the iTunes app store in 2008 kicked off a literal gold rush of downloading and marketing opportunities for travel brands. But with new reports suggesting many consumers download zero apps in any given month, it’s looking more and more like the app gold rush many finally be over. How might a travel marketer justify the high cost of investing in a new mobile app in today’s environment? Is it still worth launching new ones? Read on for more analysis, plus the rest of this week’s stories.

Brands Struggle to Promote New Apps as Market Hits Saturation Point
Does your travel brand have its own app? It looks like you’ve got a tough road ahead of you. According to new research, downloads of top 15 apps dropped by 20% versus the same period a year ago. In fact, the average smartphone user downloads exactly zero apps per month. These lackluster download habits are a further sign of the maturity of the app marketplace, suggesting travel marketers need to think long and hard about the business model for creating and promoting them. Read more

Yelp Tries to Lure Hotel Searchers with New Ad Campaign
Local search platform Yelp has launched a new multi-million dollar ad campaign in an effort to try and drum up more usage beyond its popular restaurant reviews. The local-focused company, which is spending $50 million dollars on the national TV campaign, hopes to boost awareness for its extensive hotel listings among travelers. Read more

Ryanair Tests New Discount Accommodation-Booking Service
Budget airline heavyweight Ryanair is looking to extend its discount dominance into the accommodations sector. The no-frills carrier, which has won both praise and rage for its low-fare business model in Europe, hopes to offer the same strategy in the hospitality sector. The new “Ryanair Rooms” service, which launches in October, will offer a mix of everything from Airbnb-style private accommodations to hostels and 5-star hotels. Read more

Crowdfunded Airlines: Gimmick? Or New Business Model?
Following the lead of aspiring filmmakers, luggage-makers and electronics manufacturers, a new airline called People Over Profit is hoping to use crowdfunding to bankroll the launch of proposed route between two key cities in India. While the crowdfunding technique has proved effective at helping creatives and entrepreneurs get new ventures off the ground, it will be interesting to see if it can work for a high-overhead, capital-intensive business like an airline. Read more

Technology Kills, Then Saves, the Travel Agent Business
The continued, runaway, success of the online travel industry has led many observers to proclaim the end of the traditional travel agent. But based on the number of new mobile-focused startups that are trying to reinvent the travel agent business, the obituaries written for this iconic travel industry job are likely premature. New services like Skylark and Lola offer travelers the personal touch of human-guided recommendations paired with the DIY mindset of online travel booking. Read more

Emirates, Facing Stiff Market, Considers Adding Premium Economy Seats
As strange as it may sound, falling oil prices are not entirely good news for premium carrier Emirates. Although lower fuel prices do help lower costs, the airline is also seeing many of its Middle East-based passengers cut back on travel spending as their oil incomes decrease. That’s leading the airline to rethink its prior stance on offering “Premium Economy” service, a move the airline has long worried might cannibalize profits from its business- and first-class passengers. Read more

Photo Credit: It's getting harder for mobile developers and marketers to persuade consumers to download new apps. Cristiano Betta / Flickr