Investors consist of angel investors from three continents, including former chairman of SingTel and Singapore Airlines
About 400 hotels across Asia signed up, but CEO believes HotelQuickly is still only ‘scratching the surface’
HONG Kong-based HotelQuickly Ltd has secured US$1.15 million in Series A funding, with the injection to be channeled toward further expansion within the region and to accelerate product development.
Investors in this round consist of angel investors from three continents, one of them being Boon Hwee Koh, former chairman of SingTel and Singapore Airlines, and current board member of several private companies such as Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.
Since its launch in March of this year, the same-day hotel booking application has been downloaded over 150,000 times, HotelQuickly said.
The company has also established an operational presence on two continents and in 11 countries across Asia Pacific, with approximately 400 hotels signed up to sell its last-minute inventory with discounts.
HotelQuickly chief executive officer Tomas Laboutka said that the team is still only “scratching the surface of the Asian last-minute booking market.”
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), he shared that the total hospitality market in the Asia Pacific region was estimated at about US$93 billion in 2013.
About 21% of this total market is related to online offers, of which another 42% are booked from mobile devices, which accounts for approximately US$8 billion of total market worth.
“About 70% of the mobile searches and bookings are for the same day, which leaves us with a roughly US$5.7-billion market potential. We’re happy if we capture only a part of this market,” said Laboutka.
“Travellers in the region are starting to understand that they no longer have to spend time on websites comparing hotels, prices or locations and can simply open our app and know that all the work has already been done,” he added.
Getting the right deal
HotelQuickly claims to be the largest last minute hotel-booking app in the region and Laboutka shared that the markets with the highest number of users are Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.
The value proposition to travellers is very similar to US-based offering, Hotel Tonight, which was founded in 2010, and which recently raised US$45mill in Series D funding.
Each day, HotelQuickly publishes up to six hotel deals in the most popular travel destinations across Asia Pacific. The HotelQuickly app itself currently covers over 40 locations.
The offers are always for the same day – however, up to five consecutive nights can be booked.
The booking process is entirely mobile, and can be done in seconds via supported smartphone platforms. The app is currently available for free for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
All hotels are curated with only 3-5 star and independent boutique hotels selected as HotelQuickly partners.
“The prices shown on the app are always cheaper than what is available online; we promise best prices. Even though we usually have 10 to 30 hotels signed in each city, we only show the best six deals each day,” said Laboutka (pic).
“In a nutshell, HotelQuickly promises that its users will always get the best deal with rates better than those published online and always have above average hotels available in the most popular travel destinations in the region.
“Hotels use our app to sell off distressed inventory on very short notice, rooms that they otherwise could not sell through other channels. We get a commission on each booking, and travellers always get the best possible deal,” he added.
Laboutka also shared that the team focuses its efforts on where it sees the most demand. In locations where many bookings have been observed, the team signs on more hotels in order to ensure availability during times of high demand.
“In bigger countries, we obviously have more hotels signed overall than in the smaller countries of the region. Most hotels have been signed one by one, by [us] talking to each hotel individually.
“The hospitality market is about trust and personal relationships, which is why the process of signing 400 hotels to date has been quite some work,” he added.
When asked what the product roadmap will look like in the coming months, Laboutka said that the team has many upgrades and additions planned in its IT pipeline, with new features prioritised based on customer feedback.
“We have been lucky to get quite some input from our user base. We always welcome feedback, as this is the best way to bring us to the next level and to offer our customers an even better service.
“Exact release dates of new features are classified as internal information, but we’ll keep on updating our app on a regular basis,” he said.
Stacking up the deals
Headquartered in Hong Kong, the HotelQuickly team currently numbers 25, with its operational head office in Bangkok, Thailand, where the IT development team and part of the core founding team is currently based.
“The HotelQuickly subsidiary in Thailand is Board of Investors (BOI) approved, which gives us unique opportunities to employ the best talents out there through simplified visa approval processes,” said Laboutka.
He added that in all other countries where the company has a presence in, it operates with one country manager and local key account managers.
“A lot of responsibility is with the country managers who are overseeing the market development in a given region, from account management to marketing partnerships,” said Laboutka, adding that about a quarter of the team is in IT, with the rest in other functions.
With the new funding, the plan is to hire in more IT developers and bring on board additional support in the countries via local account managers to further strengthen its foothold across Asia.
“We are not planning to open more offices. The investment is reserved for further localisation of the product as well as enhancing the current service level by adding a few additional features to our apps which are most demanded from our current customers,” Laboutka said.
When asked about competition in the market, Laboutka claims that the startup’s biggest competitor is the mind-set of travellers in the region.
“They think that they have to spend time on Agoda’s website prior to a trip to find the best deal and pre-book a hotel,” he said.
In his view, much like the e-commerce industry, it will take a little while for the broader audience to really catch up, but the mobile hotel booking industry is growing strongly.
Currently the company is conducting education outreach initiatives with travellers, to highlight the ease of mobile booking and the related cost and time benefits.
Laboutka feels that the tide is starting to turn, with more and more travellers realising that pre-booking and advanced planning was something they needed to do during the last decade and that today, smartphones can be used to save that time and book on the spot.
“Whoever makes the decision to start booking hotels spontaneously and [via] mobile, we will reward with the fastest booking process out there,” he added.
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