Gaining traction despite Booking.com’s move into last-minute hotel booking space
Hits 1mil downloads, including 200K from Malaysia, 5mths ahead of deadline
INDUSTRY observers and media are buzzing with the news that Amsterdam-based online accommodation booking website Booking.com, a unit of US online powerhouse Priceline Group, had stepped into the last-minute hotel booking space.
Hong-Kong based startup HotelQuickly Ltd cofounder and chief executive officer Tomas Laboutka remained unfazed, however. “We don’t pay too much attention to the ‘noise’,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA).
But it isn’t as if HotelQuickly is ignoring the competition either, and not just from Booking.com.
“We look at to which extent the other player’s solution is better than ours. We also look into the inventory, the quality of the hotels it is able to offer,” Laboutka told DNA in Kuala Lumpur recently.
A few months ago, Booking.com launched Booking Now, a mobile-only service that helps one to find last-minute hotel deals. This is not the first time the Dutch company is venturing into the ‘last-minute’ space, having launched Booking.com Tonight in 2012.
There have been media reports that suggested that the new app, backed by a well-established and large player, would be able to overtake Hotel Tonight, which shares almost the same business model as HotelQuickly.
The main difference between Hotel Tonight and Hotel Quickly is the markets they are in. HotelQuickly is mainly focused on Asia, while Hotel Tonight is focused on the United States and Europe.
Gaining traction, getting validation
Despite the increasing competition, HotelQuickly is not seeing any signs of slowing momentum, Laboutka (pic above) argued.
“Our traction is not slowing at all. In fact, it is doing great and we are seeing momentum shifting towards last-minute booking,” he said.
HotelQuickly, which had targeted one million downloads regionally by the end of this year, said it has already hit that target – five months ahead of schedule.
It also aims to hit 300,000 downloads in Malaysia alone, and currently has about 200,000.
Laboutka said big players like Booking.com entering this space was a testament to the fact that HotelQuickly is in the right space.
“In a way, it means that these guys are really paying attention to us and what we do,” he declared.
It is also a validation of the mobile commerce trend. “If you look at how the industry is changing, it has gone from offline to online, and then to mobile.
“It [mobile] is going through the same cycle as online. There were believers and non-believers. You got non-believers saying things like ‘people will only look online, but will never buy, as they will buy offline.’
“It was the same with mobile ... non-believers said ‘people will only look at it on mobile, but will never buy, as they will buy online,” Laboutka said.
READ ALSO: Mobile, cross-device usage driving e-commerce purchases: Criteo
Focus on customers
Laboutka said that by focusing on delivering a good customer experience, HotelQuickly would be able to fend off its larger rivals.
“We need to focus on the customer. That’s all. We need to know what sort of things Malaysian customers want – whether it is a getaway in Melaka or in Penang … we need to understand that,” he said.
“We believe that if you focus on doing one thing really well, you will be superior,” he added.
Currently, HotelQuickly has 300 hotel partners in Malaysia and over 6,000 hotel partners in the region – significantly smaller than online travel agents which have tens of thousands such partners in their inventory.
“The hotels we offer to our customers are carefully handpicked and selected. We are trying to offer products which are the most relevant for our customers,” Laboutka claimed.
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