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How to Create a Hotel Booking Website

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Yuri Musienko
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According to Statista, nine out of ten Americans book hotel rooms using web services such as Booking, Priceline, Expedia or Hotels.com, as it is faster, easier, and often cheaper. Therefore, it is not surprising that many enthusiasts are thinking about how to create a hotel booking website and monetize it. From our article you will learn how to do it, what is needed for this and how much will it cost you to launch such a project.

Step 1: choose a business model

Hotel chain website. The easiest option is when hotel chains create web services and mobile applications for booking rooms only in their hotels. Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton and other major players have such web services. Small hotel chains and individual hotels also tend to have their own sites.

Agent business model. These are all sites that work according to the multi-vendor platform algorithm: the service collects rental offers from many sources and offers them to users in the form of a list with many filters (location, price, availability, shower in the room, etc.). The most striking example is Booking.com, which charges 10 to 30% commission on every transaction.

Advertising business model. This model is based on pay-per-click advertising (CPC) that is displayed on the hotel reservation website. At the same time, an order for such advertising can be sought using direct contracts with hotel chains, affiliate programs of other sites, or by connecting to Google Ads or other similar services. Classic examples: TripAdvisor, PlacetoStay, Hotels.com, HotelTonight and Google Hotel Finder.

Commercial business model. Sometimes this scheme is called trading. Its essence is that the web service buys several hotel rooms and then resells them to its users. The difference between the purchase price and the sale price is the profit of the service. This is how the Expedia reservation site works, which in 2018 earned more than $ 5 billion, thus selling rooms in more than 200 countries. Its main competitors are Orbitz and Priceline.

Niche Business Models. The above are the classic booking sites that occupy most of the market. It’s quite difficult to compete directly with them, so many startups rely on a specific niche, creating a unique selling proposition for it. The most striking example of a niche project is Airbnb, which relies on short-term rental of private housing.

Here are some more examples of niche business models for booking sites:

  1. Inexpensive booking. HostelBookers, LonelyPlanet and HostelWorld services offer travelers only budget options for staying in hotels, hostels and private apartments, houses or cottages.
  2. Free accommodation. Couchsurfing website was created for cultural exchange between residents of different countries. With it, people offer free accommodation to everyone who does the same for other participants in the service. The site is used by more than 12 million people in 230 thousand cities around the world.
  3. Exchange of free housing. Holiday Swap is an online service in the Tinder style, offering users to exchange apartments and houses for only $ 1 per day. The project currently covers more than 40 countries.
  4. Last minute reservation. HotelTonight, HotelQuickly and One Night offer the opportunity to book a hotel room a few hours before the check-out time. These offers are generally cheaper.
  5. Ultra short stay. Projects such as Dayuse are designed for those who need a hotel room or apartment for one day or less. For example, in order not to wander around a strange (boring) city in your free time between a business meeting at lunch and a flight home in the evening. Instead, you can take a shower and relax in a pleasant environment.
Creating your own hotel reservation website for your vacation, you do not have to adhere to one business model or work in only one niche. You can combine several monetization models and bet on several niches in order to increase the reach of the target audience and the number of ways to profit from the site.

Step 2: determine the basic functions

Depending on which model of the site you choose, it should have user panels for working with two or three user roles:
  1. Hotelier - the owner or manager of a hotel (hotel chain) who will place a proposal for rental housing in a hotel, hostel, apartment.
  2. Traveler - a user who will use your service to search, book and pay for accommodation on your or partner site.
  3. Administrator - a user with administrator rights (you or your employee) who manages the service and solves problems.
The feature set for each role is different.

For clients. A set of tools that will allow travelers to find, choose, book and pay rent on your site, as well as everything related to it. Typically, this list includes the following functions:
  1. Registration / Login. Create a personal profile by registering via email, phone number, account on Google or social networks.
  2. Personal profiles. Usually include a name with a surname, age, country, city, photo and other personal data, as well as forms of payment.
  3. User Panel. A set of tools for searching, booking, payment and other actions of travelers, including the ability to rate, comment and chat with other users. In addition, the user panel contains information on reservations, reviews, wish lists, recommendations and other personal information.
  4. Search engine. The ability to search for a hotel and rooms according to several criteria: location, availability, price, shower in the room, distance to the city center, sleeping places, air conditioning, etc. The choice of filters can be implemented as on Booking.com (all filters are available immediately) or the search can be carried out in stages (the city is selected first, then the price range, then the type of housing and so on). The search engine should be simple, intuitive and at the same time maximally functional.
  5. Use an IP address to locate users and provide them with personalized offers. In addition, integration with Google Maps is also desirable for the ability to search for hotels near train stations, airports and attractions.
  6. Ratings and reviews. Allow you to create a gradation of hotels according to their quality based on customer reviews. It is desirable to create a rating system for several parameters, for example, cleanliness, compliance with photos, quality of service, response speed, convenient location, etc.
  7. Informing customers about events, promotions, discounts and everything that is important for the trip (for example, a reminder of the trip a few days before it). Notifications can be implemented via e-mail, SMS and messages on social networks or instant messengers.
  8. Needed to clarify various issues related to booking, and to communicate with the administration and support service.
For hoteliers. A set of tools for homeowners or managers with which they can offer their services to travelers. The following items are included in the basic list of such functions:
  1. Registration / Login. Hoteliers need the ability to create personal profiles to tie their property to them. As with travelers, this can be done using email, phone number, social networks and a Google account.
  2. Real estate management. The ability to attach a property to a profile and indicate its main properties (location, number of rooms, amenities, etc.), photos, payment terms, availability, etc.
  3. Manage your reservation. Calendar for tracking availability, setting booking conditions (automatically, after confirmation by a hotelier, etc.) and the possibility of canceling a reservation.
  4. Setting conditions and methods for notifying the hotelier and his clients about various events, promotions, discounts and other.
  5. Needed to communicate with customers and administration.
For administrators. Tools for managing the site, content and payments, as well as statistics and analytics. The specific feature set depends on the business model and niche. No registration function. New administrators are added through the panel of the main administrator (site owner).

Step 3: add additional features

In addition to the basic functionality, you can also consider improving your hotelbooking site by adding various useful features that improve the user experience. Here are some examples of useful features for travelers:
  1. Mobile application. More than 80% of Internet users prefer to interact with web services through the application rather than the browser, as it is more convenient, faster and safer. Therefore, if you create a hotel booking site, then you cannot do without your mobile application.
  2. Search and purchase of tickets. Along with the search for housing, you can add the ability to purchase plane, bus and train tickets with reference to the date of check-in and check-out. If you join the affiliate programs of transport companies, this can be another source of income.
  3. Car rental and other transport. Renting a car, motorcycle, bicycle or other vehicle is another useful feature that users will like and give you the opportunity to earn. In addition, you can add integration with Uber, BlaBlaCar or their local counterparts.
  4. Recommendations for travelers. You can also add to the site recommendations on what places to visit in the city: restaurants, attractions, events (festivals, fairs, forums).
  5. Advanced statistics and analytics. You can also provide hoteliers with solutions for a deeper analysis of their activity and work results on the site: CRM, statistics, analytics, marketing, etc.
  6. Interactive hotel plans. So that travelers do not get lost, you can provide them with interactive maps that will tell you how to get to the hotel and where to go there (registration, booked room).
  7. Smart assistants. You can connect the AI, which will take on the functions of concierge and information support when interacting with travelers. Such a solution was implemented by Marriott and many other startups. Here is a list of the functions, that AI can take on.
  8. Dynamic prices. You can provide hoteliers with a system that automatically changes the cost of reservation in a hotel depending on employment and season. Studies show that it increases profits by 30-50%.
  9. VR and AR technologies. With their help, you can create virtual tours of the hotel and the booked room.

Step 4: choose an API to integrate with the site

It is important to understand that when creating a website for booking hotels you do not need to reinvent the wheel. The market is full of various API solutions that will help with the collection of data on hotels, room occupancy, amenities, prices, tickets and much more. Here are some APIs you can use:
  1. Metadata for comparison. The Skyscanner Affiliate API and HotelsCombined Data Feeds help with price comparisons, booking conditions and more.
  2. Hotel search and reservation. ZUMATA Hotel Booking API, Hotelscombined, EPS Rapid or Expedia Affiliate Network API and other similar aggregators.
  3. Ratings and reviews: TripAdvisor Content API or Olery Hotel Review Data API.
  4. Recommendations of restaurants, attractions. Use the Google Places API to share information about nearby places.
  5. City guides. The izi.TRAVEL API contains guides and information about more than 1750 cities around the world. Information is provided in several languages.
  6. Integration with maps. The best option is the Google Maps API, the second most powerful is the Factual Data API. SmartyStreets Address API and ViaMichelin REST API help with address verification, routing and geocoding.
  7. Weather forecast. The best option for this is the OpenWeatherMap API.
  8. Payment systems. Stripe or Braintree SDK solutions can help.
  9. Access to GDS. If you are the owner of a hotel or hotel chain, then use Amadeus, Saber or Travelport. If you are developing an online hotel booking aggregator, then use Hotel APIs integration.
  10. Affiliate programs. Expedia Affiliate Network (5% commission from Expedia Collect Inventory and an additional 50% for each hotel reservation and completion of stay), Booking.com Affiliate Partner Program (from 25 to 40% commission depending on the number of bookings per month).

Step 5: protect user data

According to the American Hotel Industry Association, travelers lose about $ 4 billion each year due to online booking fraud. Most of it is the result of the theft of personal data (PII, payment data and user credentials). Use the following six practices to avoid this:
  1. Site / application code protection. Use algorithmic code encryption together with API encryption to protect the code of your service, even if it is a white label or open source software.
  2. Backend network connection protection. Using containers, encrypting the database, VPN, SSL and TLS connections will protect the service from unauthorized interference, even if the penetration will occur on the server side or internal connections.
  3. Identification, authentication and authorization. Gold standard for sites - OAuth2, mobile applications - JSON web tokens.
  4. Security of customer data on the site and in the application. To protect the service from identity theft, this data should be stored on secure servers, and not in a mobile application or cookies.
  5. API Security Check. APIs extract data from many third-party sources (aggregators), and if you use them, you must be sure that not only your site’s connections to the APIs are secure, but also those connections that they use.
  6. Testing, testing, testing. The security check of the site should occur constantly (once every one to two months), and not only at the development stage or after launch.

The cost of creating a hotel booking site

Create a Hotel Booking Website

Create a Hotel Booking Website table

How to Create a Hotel Booking Website key takeaways:
  1. Step 1: choose a business model
  2. Step 2: determine the basic functions
  3. Step 3: add additional features
  4. Step 4: choose an API to integrate with the site
  5. Step 5: protect user data
  6. The cost of creating a hotel booking site
Merehead does professional development of Hotel Booking Website. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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