Ten years ago a traveler could barely imagine preparing for a journey without the help of a professional. Today, however, travelers are much more independent. Instead of relying on travel agencies to book hotel rooms and flights on their behalf, people use mobile and web solutions to do the job quickly and affordably. Technology has made it possible for almost anyone to organize and plan a trip with nothing more than a digital device.
This article describes the travel app marketplace—including the top players and the functions most important for apps in your desired category—so that your launch can distinguish itself and build a base of loyal users.
Begin the development process by identifying the purpose of your app and the benefits it will bring to users. You can then define the essential functions and the direction of your marketing campaign.
Generally, there are four main types of travel apps:
With their help, people can search for necessary flights, compare prices, book tickets, and pay for them. Such services became so popular that, according to Hotel Business, 84% of customers use online services for booking flights.
Accommodation booking apps
These apps are similar to the previous type, but they cover hotels and apartments instead of flight tickets. The user can look for the right accommodation, book a room, and pay for it, all in one process. People can also rate and review the accommodations they've tried.
These applications help travelers navigate the commuter networks in the places they visit. The apps offer the most suitable solutions for efficient movement in and around tourist areas, and they offer detailed routes and alternatives.
The online travel guide is devoted to tourist attractions. Users can leave reviews and rate the places they’ve visited, describing their experiences in detail. That information can help prospective tourists decide whether the places they're querying are worthwhile. So, an online travel guide can help make any trip more fun and complete.
Examples are easy to find for each of these types. So, despite the pandemic, the travel app market is flourishing and the competition is hot. Does that call into question the potential viability of a new travel app? Let's settle the question right here.
The year 2020 had a significant impact on travel industry statistics worldwide. For example, when the first lockdowns occurred, international travel dropped 65%. It can easily frustrate business owners because many of them rely on that type of travel.
We see no reason to feel desperate. After all, there is a more positive trend: the increasingly popular “staycation." These industries have already become more popular and will continue to win the market share.
The following statistics show the promise inherent in digital travel:
The market size of the global online travel agent sector reached $432.14 billion.
Revenue of Booking Holdings and TripAdvisor hit the marks of $6.8 billion and $604 million, respectively.
According to Google, 71% of smartphones users use them for travel at least once per week.
Sixty percent of travelers prefer mobile apps over mobile sites while dealing with loyalty programs.
Forty-two percent of active travelers say they want to personalize their booking experiences.
We proved that the travel app market is thriving and some niches are still available for new businesses. However, the success of big-league players is still inspiring. They figured out how to attract the audience and what benefits to give their users.
TripAdvisor is one of today's best travel apps, and it offers almost 8 million restaurants, hotels, and destinations. Each entry carries multiple reviews, so users can assess their queried locations and decide whether to go. The app is available on multiple platforms (Android, iOS, web), which makes its experience available to every segment of the audience.
This app is your best friend when you need a clever guide through local transport. Waze helps you navigate around blocked roads, car accidents, and traffic jams.
Whether you’re looking for a room, an apartment, or a whole house for you and your friends, Airbnb saves the day. It’s one of the most convenient tools for finding and renting any type of accommodation directly from its owners. You can sort the possible options by reviews, ratings, photos, and amenities, such as a Jacuzzi or an air conditioner. The platform has both mobile and web versions and is available on all platforms.
The main focus of Kayak is comparing flights options and show the best ones to users. Flights can be filtered by airlines and airports. Also, users can indicate how many people are going to travel and the amount of luggage they carry. Additionally, there are lots of alternatives for accommodations and car rentals.
This app is ideal for spontaneous travelers. Imagine that you've taken a flight. You've arrived in a new town, and now you desperately need a place to spend the night. HotelTonight will show you the last-minute hotel rooms available in or around your location. Filters include dates, location, the number of guests, and pet acceptance. If you have any questions, 24/7 support will help to answer them.
The above-mentioned apps belong to different types of travel apps. However, they have several common features that define their core and play a crucial role in their success. These features will create an ideal base for your application, because users expect them in any mobile travel solution.
To maximize personalization, your app should facilitate the creation and management of profiles. The user provides the essential information, such as the name, age, location, and interests, and then the app compiles the recommendations. So, users should be able to register and log in via multiple channels (e-mail, phone number, social media).
Logically, a travel app should also be helpful in terms of navigation. Whenever a new location is encountered, the user will want quick access to safe, reliable data. So, the integration of a GPS navigator will make it possible to confidently explore new environments, sample the area's dining and attractions, and arrive at overnight accommodations in a timely manner.
Search and filters
The chief purpose of a travel app is to find the best opportunities (whether it’s a hotel room, transport, or tours), a well-organized search is a must. People are looking for journeys according to the destination, time, and budget, so these filters are the required minimum. More sophisticated filters will make the search even more flexible and convenient.
Another essential feature of a travel app is a list of items. When the user is done searching, they want to explore the hotel they found or get more detailed information about a flight. The description can include a photo, booking dates, prices, reviews, and ratings.
The ideal room or flight is found, it’s time to book it. If you create a travel app, this feature is extremely important. Not every travel service has it, so it can be an advantage for you.
If you implement bookings or think about an in-app store, you should implement a payment system. There are plenty of tools for that purpose, including PayPal, Apple Pay, Braintree, and Stripe.
If you want to enhance the quality of your app, here are some level-up features that can make your competitive advantage:
Translator: Despite the fact that English is a global language, fluency is by no means universal. An integrated translator will help break through language barriers.
Planner: In addition to booking accommodation or transport, the app can automatically organize an itinerary for better flow and give advice on how to make any journey the best it can be.
Chat: Users can talk with the customer service of your app or with hosts and companies directly.
The above list is just a sampling. You can add more specific functionality to suit the concept for your app.
Choosing the features for your app is only part of the process. travel app development is complicated, so a neat structure is necessary in order to prevent confusion and other issues.
We already mentioned the possible types of apps for you to choose from, but you can go even more specific. For example, you can refine the target audience to a certain age group or group them by interests.
It's likely that your idea has already been implemented by someone else. Before starting the development, analyze your competitors: what they have to offer, why users like them, and what their weaknesses are.
If you don’t have an in-house development team, you will need a suitable agency with relevant experience. Be sure to vet if they are qualified to work on a project such yours.
The type of travel app you develop will largely determine what users will use it for and how they'll employ it. For example, your employees can be admins who'll control content, reviews, and listings. Owners of travel businesses will manage their accounts, and general users can leave reviews and book what they need for their travel objectives.
When the formal part is set, you can start the development of your travel app. Depending on your project’s scale, it can take quite a lot of time but would recommend creating an MVP first. It will help you to estimate the idea and define whether it’s relevant to continue scaling up.
Every aspect of your app, from the core functions to the smallest button, should be tested to ensure its accuracy and reliability. There loading tests, unit tests, and A/B tests, to name a few.
The app is finished. It has been tested and released. The work isn't over, though. Now it’s time to collect customer feedback, fix bugs, and update the app’s functionality.
We defined the set of features, analyzed the competitors, and created a trustworthy strategy. However, these steps take resources to complete. How much will a mobile travel app cost? The question is a bit of a challenge.
The development costs depend on multiple factors, including project specifications, the location of the team, the tech stack, and the level of specialist seniority.
Here is an approximate time estimation of travel app development:
Setting up continuous integration and continuous delivery—90 hours
Backend development—50 hours
Sign up/Sign in—90 hours
Profile/Home screen—260 hours
Taking everything mentioned plus the app’s type, the final cost can range from $55,000 to $100,000, excluding maintenance and updating.
A more detailed estimate is available, of course. Feel free to contact our team of specialists, and they'll gladly help you.
Depending on the type and specifications of the project, the final set of technologies may vary. Some services can be redundant and some can add up during the post-release updating. Still, it’s possible to combine the list of core technologies necessary for a mobile travel app:
Programming languages: Swift, Java
Database: MySQL, PostgreSQL
Cloud: AWS, Amazon S3
Payments: Apple Pay, PayPal, Stripe, Braintree
Third-party services: Facebook, Google Maps API
There are several ways to make money out of your travel app.
In-app ads. If you release the app in Google Play or App Store, you can join their advertisement programs. It will allow them to show ads inside your app on a pay-per-click basis.
Sponsorship. You can accept direct payments from trusted partners, including hotels and travel agencies, and show their promotions inside your application.
One-time payment. It may appear to be the easiest way to go. Users just pay for installing the app. However, don’t let it deceive you. The market is rich in all kinds of travel apps, so you need to be exceptionally unique to be worth paying for upfront.
In-app purchases. Technically, you can sell whatever you want inside your app: souvenirs, discount coupons, even insurance services.
Listing fees. Since appearing in the tourist apps contributes a lot to their promotion, they might be interested in paying you to get on the list.
All these ways can be efficient depending on your app’s goal and set of features.
We described every aspect of mobile travel app development. You can already create a high-quality solution that will be welcomed by users. Still, there are some points to consider that can bring your app to the next level.
Even if you think that your idea is one-of-a-kind, well, there is a good chance it isn’t. The travel app market is growing literally every day with tens of solutions appearing in app stores. So before entering it, make sure you have a decent offer that your potential users will appreciate.
When you have formulated an idea and a killer feature, you should choose the platforms you prefer for the release of your app. Do you need a cross-platform or native app? Will you want iOS, Android, or even a PWA? The choice depends. A hybrid app will work for an MVP, but a fully developed solution will require native mobile development.
People receive almost 80% of all information via eyes. That makes the design extremely important. If your app is visually attractive, users will more likely to stay with it. But don’t sacrifice usability for the sake of appearance. The primary goal of your travel app is to be useful.
Fernwayer is a travel app connecting travel geeks with new experiences. It’s kind of a middle ground between social media and a tourist guide. It has two parts: one for experience makers and one for travelers. Experience Makers can tell about their services and Travelers can look through reviews and book what they find interesting.
Travgenius provides a way to book a hotel from more than 450,000 properties worldwide, and it does so for a market-beating price. Under the hood, advanced security measures have been implemented to provide a safe booking and payment processing experience. Designed in the form of a single-page application, Travgenius offers a smooth, lightweight interface and a user-friendly booking experience that works with just a few clicks. Travgenius also boasts an advanced filtering system that helps the user quickly find just the right place to stay.
Despite the limitations imposed due to the pandemic, traveling continues to be a popular kind of entertainment. So, your travel app idea may be the one users are waiting for. Pick up the essential features, hire a dedicated team, apply a monetization model, and help people around the world fulfill their dreams and enrich their awareness.
✈️ Is it wise to invest in a travel app?
✈️ What are the most common travel app features?
✈️ What does it cost to create a travel app?
✈️ What are the market's best travel apps?
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