Skift Take

HotelTonight made a smart move by expanding beyond last-minute bookings. So far, the company's willingness to tweak its product and roll with the punches is paying off with profitability.

HotelTonight co-founder and CEO Sam Shank said his company is focusing on making constant, incremental improvements — no matter how small — to its app, which gives it an advantage over big competitors.

About his competitors, many of whom are heavy into desktop traffic, Shank said, “Most of their R&D efforts have gone into improving the conversion rate of their marketing and their marketing efficiency, but it doesn’t flow down to delighting and providing a great experience for the customer, and that’s where we’re going to win.”

Shank told Bloomberg Thursday his priority is “bringing something really new to customers every time they open the app, so it’s better and better every day.”

Such product innovation includes improvements to user experience and a revamped loyalty program, the latter having launched in December. Among HotelTonight’s biggest changes since its founding in 2010 as a mobile-only last-minute hotel booking app, was broadening its focus beyond last-minute bookings to include bookings up to 100 days in advance.

On another front, despite wanting to differentiate from and other online travel agencies, Shank said he doesn’t consider Airbnb to be a competitor: “I love Airbnb, and it’s a very complementary product.” He noted that Airbnb guests tend to stay longer and book further in advance, while HotelTonight bookings are more about business travel and weekend getaways, leaving room for many winners in the sector.

Shank said the online travel agencies are in direct competition with hotels — hence the direct booking wars — while HotelTonight doesn’t take an adversarial stance, providing hotels with incremental revenue.

Mexico is one of HotelTonight’s fastest growing markets, according to Shank, with the U.S. and Europe being its two largest. He said the company is putting more resources into growth in Mexico.

When asked whether he’s steering HotelTonight toward an acquisition by a company such as Google, Shank claimed he doesn’t think about such a prospect.

He’d be a unique co-founder and CEO if that were indeed true.

Bloomberg’s segment on HotelTonight is available here.


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Tags: airbnb, hoteltonight, mobile

Photo credit: Sam Shank, co-founder and CEO of HotelTonight, is focused on making constant improvements to the company's mobile app. HotelTonight

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