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How Much Does it Cost to Start a Booking Clone?

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Yuri Musienko
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Online booking is in high demand. People travel for leisure, to visit international conferences, and to go on business trips. They need help in organizing their travels. That is why online travel marketplaces are a convenient tool, due to which a traveler can rent a place, buy flights, rent a car, or call a taxi. These platforms are considered the most popular: Booking.com, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia. Another name of these resources is online travel agencies (ОТАs). In the given material, we’ll review how to create a clone application and how much it will cost. Let’s take an undisputed leader as an example – ОТА Booking.com.

What is Booking.com?

The company’s founder, Geert-Jan Bruinsma, noticed a gap in online hotel reservations in 1996. For this reason, a listing site for hotel rooms named Booking.com was created more than 20 years ago. Priceline group bought this company in 2005.

Originally, the site offered only hotel rooms. Nevertheless, now it’s possible to receive a wide range of accommodation options, transport tickets, car rentals, and even taxi services with the help of this platform.

The concept of similar websites lies in the following: accommodation owners partner with the site and share listing information. Then their offers show up in the catalog on the site. Using the platform is free for travelers; the website only charges a fee to accommodation providers for each booking.

During its work, the Booking.com website has partnered with more than 950 000 hotels worldwide. The company’s success is proven by the statistics.

Besides, according to a German company «Statista», which specializes in market and consumer data, currently, about 80% of adults in the USA prefer booking online. Only about 20% of the USA population prefer booking hotels offline.

Core features of a booking clone for customers

The cost of building a travel website directly depends on its features. We suggest looking at the basic feature set of platforms for customers.

1. Singup.

This procedure should not be difficult. As a rule, the users can sign up by providing their phone numbers or email addresses and coming up with a password. It’s also very convenient to undergo this procedure with social media.

2. Personal profile.

User profiles are viewed when a person leaves a comment, shares a review, posts photos, etc. The information in profiles generally includes the following: name, age, country, and a profile picture.

3. User dashboard.

All information about previous bookings, reviews, and wish lists is stored in a personal dashboard. Users can also update, delete, or change any information in the profile.

4. Search.

After a user has registered, he can start his search immediately. The search bar on Booking.com requires only a destination, a number of travelers and rooms, and a date. The search system is simple and easy to navigate. The website also has high-level filtering that makes searching fast and accurate.

5. Geolocation.

Booking.com uses IP addresses to identify users’ locations and provide personalized offers. The website also provides map integration to search for landmarks and hotels. This option is convenient for users, who are looking for accommodation near a specific place.

6. Ratings and reviews.

This section is an essential part of any marketplace. It allows for categorizing products and services according to their quality. Booking.com provides users with different types of ratings: price, review score, star rating, etc. The review section is displayed when users open the page of a particular hotel. Ratings and guest reviews build trust and credibility for travelers and motivate service providers to improve their offerings.

You also shouldn’t forget about notifications. The Booking.com website notifies customers about special deals, discounts, and coupons. There’s even a special tool by this resource for Chrome that notifies users about everything connected to their trips.

Features for hoteliers

Let’s consider separate features, which the hoteliers will need for the correct work with the resource.

Property management

The first thing service providers have to do is create an account and register the properties they want to rent. Generally, a property management board includes the following information:
  • Property details (number of rooms, facilities, etc.)
  • Photos
  • Description
  • Payment details
In addition, in their accounts, property owners can add or delete details, etc.

Booking management

Property owners can manage all of their bookings and cancel when needed without being charged.

Nice features for users – what else you should consider

You should think about adding some useful features for users to your resource.
  1. Flight search and selling transport tickets. Aside from booking hotel rooms, you may offer users to reserve a seat on a plane, bus, or train.
  2. Car rental. Adding this feature will become a website advantage. Besides, cooperation with services like Uber or BlaBlaCar is possible.
  3. Analytics – this feature will make it possible to examine customers’ behavior, monitor the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, see the visitors’ preferences, etc. This information will allow making unique offers even to the most discerning guests.
  4. Interactive hotel map. This feature won’t let newly arrived guests of the hotel get lost. Apart from it, the map will provide the visitors with information about interesting places in the hotel.
However, you should take into account that it’s more reasonable to implement these features after the release when the site is tested and approved by the consumers. Initially, you should launch a minimum viable product, which allows understanding what this market demands.

Travel marketplace monetization

There are three main business models that OTAs use to generate revenue. Let’s consider each one of them in more detail and with examples.

Advertising business model

TripAdvisor successfully uses this model. This revenue model is based on cost-per-click (CPC) advertisements. Advertisers pay a fee when users click on a link. It’s a predominant revenue stream for TripAdvisor. The company receives a fee when the user goes to the advertiser’s site from the company’s website.

Merchant business model

In this model, the travel website acts as a merchant. Bookings are made on the website itself. Usually, an online resource buys a number of hotels or hotel rooms and then resell these rooms to users. An example of such a business model is Expedia: this business model accounted for more than $5 billion in revenue in 2018. But Expedia makes use of other models too.

Agency business model

In this model, OTA acts as an intermediary between travelers and service providers, charging a commission on each transaction. An example of this business model is Booking.com itself. The company partners with hotels and lets them list their properties on the website. Booking.com then charges from 10 to 30 percent of each transaction made. Booking.com also uses the merchant and advertising business models, but the agency model is predominant.

Estimated difficulties when building a travel marketplace

There are some common challenges that keep travel websites from being successful. But if you know about them beforehand, you can avoid them. Let’s look at the most common problems OTAs face and ways to solve them.

High competition

We can see «giants» that were described above: Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia. It’s not easy to compete with them. Therefore, a suitable solution for a startup can be targeting a separate target audience.

If you focus on a small niche with its needs and pain points, it will be a lot easier to reveal their preferences. We can specify several interesting examples of travel websites, which are targeted at a certain audience. Specifically, the PureRooms resource – it’s an actual saving of people with allergies. It can help to find a safe and hypoallergenic room. And the HotelJacuzzi platform will help travelers looking for hotels with Jacuzzis.

High demand for personalization

Travelers expect an exclusive and authentic experience when dealing with a travel website in the digital age. They also look for a seamless booking experience based on their needs and preferences. Unfortunately for customers and fortunately for entrepreneurs, there aren’t many travel websites that provide high-level personalization today.

By providing highly personalized experiences to users, travel businesses can improve customer acquisition, and even increase their conversion rate, let alone a competitive advantage.

More and more customers want special offers according to their purpose of travel. For instance, some travelers wish resources could provide a more personalized experience to those, who are going on business trips. Booking.com allows companies to manage their employees’ travels with Booking.com for Business. For many business travelers, Wi-Fi, parking, and breakfast are essential. These criteria can be added to a personalized search. In addition, the increase of personalization is possible by delving deeper into customers’ preferences.

How much does it cost to develop a booking clone?

We should calculate working hours, which were spent on the development, to find out an approximate price of a booking website. The cost is calculated in them.

Here is the approximate amount of time:

  • hotel search and reservation – 16-24 hours;
  • filter system – 8-16 hours;
  • personal accounts – 16-24 hours;
  • room previews – 8-16 hours;
  • notifications – 16-24 hours;
  • payment gateway – 24-40 hours;
  • settings – 8-16 hours.
So total hours are from 95 to 160. If we take an average hourly rate – $60, it will be $5 700 to $9 600 on average. But you should understand that this relates to a minimum viable product – a version of a website. Additional features for users require approximately the same time and money.

You may also think about an app for mobile devices. This will help to reach the audience that prefers to order everything via smartphones. To create apps for Android and iOS, you’ll need approximately 90-200 hours on each option.

Merehead does professional development of start online booking website like booking.com. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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