Book a room at the last minute? Get Big Discounts With Hotel Booking Apps

In the past, when Nirmalya Barua, a 46-year-old information technology (IT) professional, needed to book hotel rooms for a business or leisure trip, he went to the website of a online travel agency because it offered a wide range of choices. When looking for budget options, he booked through hotel room aggregators, where he was assured of value-for-money pricing and no-frills but standardized quality. Lately, he has started to rely on several mobile applications, depending on his needs, including traveling at the last moment or looking for a room at the desired price. Lately, these apps, which negotiate discounts with hotels on behalf of the customer, have gained considerable attention from travellers.

Book a room at the last minute: Imagine you need to go to a city for a short-term business meeting and you haven’t booked a hotel room in advance. Or, your day trip to a new city is extended at the last minute, leaving you without accommodation for the night. In all these scenarios, you can turn to the Nightstay app on your mobile phone.

This platform aggregates unsold inventory from hotels and resells it to last-minute customers at a discounted rate. According to Nasr Khan, Founder and CEO of Nightstay: “Hotel inventory is a perishable commodity. If you don’t sell it today, the unsold inventory is wasted. We ask hotels to put their unsold rooms on our platform at a discounted rate. Across India, Khan reports, the average hotel occupancy rate is just 61%. In other words, 39% of inventory is wasted.

Available inventory for the day is displayed on the Nightstay app and website at 9am. From there, you can book until midnight. Nightstay has links with 800 hotels in 12 cities.

The rates you can get from Nightstay are at least 25-30% lower than what you would offer on the hotel website. Sometimes, if the supply of unused inventory is high, discounts can reach 40-50% or more (see table).

Nightstay management guarantees that the rates on their platform are lower than those offered elsewhere. “If a hotel wants to be promoted by us, it must offer us the lowest rates. We regularly check the rates that others offer for the same hotels. If the prices they gave us are not the lowest, we send a notification. If the hotel still doesn’t make amends, our system stops showing it on the app,” says Khan.

Until recently, a limitation of the Nightstay app was that you could only book on the same day. In addition, your stay cannot extend beyond three nights. “We target the unplanned traveler. Our experience has been that unplanned trips usually don’t last longer than three nights,” says Khan. Lately they have relaxed their rules to allow reservations one day in advance. But in this case you must book at least two nights.

Quote your price: These days, some hotel booking apps even allow you to indicate the price you want to pay for a hotel room. Findmystay allows you to do this through what is known as the reverse auction model. Customers first enter the date of stay, city, and sub-location, then enter the price they are willing to pay for a room.

If you are a first-time traveler or unfamiliar with the destination, you are wondering what is the average price of a hotel room in this city and locality where you want to stay. To overcome this problem, Findmystay has made available a tool called ‘price slider’. “It tells you the average cost of the hotel room in a particular locality and of a certain star quality. Then you can quote a price lower than that. But, of course, you shouldn’t quote any one that’s ridiculously low,” says Simran Sial, co-founder of Findmystay. Then you get a list of hotels that have accepted your price, and you can choose from those. Sial says travelers can, on average , get a discount of about 30% through the platform.Findmystay covers about 45 cities and offers accommodation in some 4,000 hotels.

To get a good rate, it is advisable to book in advance. “Rates are lower when a large number of stocks are available and increase as they are reduced,” says Sial. He adds that customers can usually get a good discount by booking seven days in advance.

Big discounts for small businesses: Large companies have their own travel offices. Since they can promise large volumes to hotels, they are able to negotiate good discounts. Small businesses do not have the same weight. There comes Savvymob. “We gather demand from a number of small businesses and offer it to the hotel. If we offer 10 of our clients a hotel, they offer us better rates,” says Bikram Sohal, General Manager.

He adds that they are able to get a price that is at least 20-30% cheaper than that offered by an online travel agency. Savvymob now has ties in at least a hundred countries and can offer its customers an inventory of around 300,000 hotel rooms. These apps offer you rooms across the spectrum, from budget to luxury and in business and leisure destinations.

Ensure quality: Apart from a good price, another aspect that worries travelers is whether they will have a quality hotel experience. Many of these platforms have partnered with TripAdvisor and offer its hotel ratings on their app and website, which you can check out. They also check hotel standards before signing up. “We have a checklist of 20 to 25 criteria. Only if a hotel passes them all do we ship it. Also, if we receive two or three complaints about a hotel, we remove it from our platform,” says Nightstay’s Khan. For these players, ensuring quality is a primary concern because around half of their business comes from loyal customers.

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