NOTE: GrowthBeat -- VentureBeat's provocative new marketing-tech event -- is a week away! We've gathered the best and brightest to explore the data, apps, and science of successful marketing. Get the full scoop here, and grab your tickets while they last.
Tourists who find themselves stranded in London without a hotel room will have a new friend in last-minute stay startup HotelTonight, which has made its mobile hotel-booking apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android available in the UK today.
“Ultimately, we want to be the mobile travel brand that means ‘I want a hotel room right now,'” HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank told VentureBeat. “That’s a universal problem for consumers, and … the solution we provide for hotels of helping them sell their perishable inventory … is a universal problem as well.”
So novel in concept that it just secured $23 million in new funding, HotelTonight is the mobile-only way to book a same-night hotel stay in 43 markets across the U.S., Canada, and now London. Each day at noon local time, app users are presented with three hotel deals available that night, each offered at a different price level. The company, which works directly with hotels to secure discounted pricing for empty rooms, has 1,000 hotel partners, and its apps have been downloaded 2.3 million times.
See VentureBeat contributor Rocky Agrawal’s recent review of the service.
Above: HotelTonight iPad app for UK
With the Wednesday release of hotel listings in the London area — including inventory from top-of-the-line brands such as Thompson Hotels, Morgans Hotel Group, and Langham Hotels — one-year-old HotelTonight has officially kicked off its global expansion. In conjunction with the release, the startup has also opened a London office, to be managed by Jetsetter alum Heather Leisman, that will further support international growth.
Both announcements are, of course, timed perfectly to meet demand for the upcoming London Olympics, just 36 days away.
Today’s London launch has been in the making since HotelTonight’s debut, Shank said. “We knew we wanted to be overseas, so we architected the platform to allow us to do that,” he said, adding that the startup has been working on the logistical and bureaucratic pieces of the London release since earlier this year. “It’s been a lot of work for us. It’s been a fairly careful and measured approach to this launch … it’s a long-term investment in Europe.”
But just how realistic will it be to turn to HotelTonight when you really need a room during the Olympics? Very, Shank said, without disclosing total inventory for the city or the games. The average number of hotels per market, he said, is 20.
“If we weren’t able to get any inventory during the Olympics, we wouldn’t have launched before the Olympics,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we would have a consistent and seamless experience — and have deals every day at noon.”
HotelTonight has raised $35.85 million in funding to date and now has 55 employees. The London office has a small staff of three, but will make more hires up as the startup continues to expand to other U.K. cities, Shank said.
Photo credit: Langham Hotels
Design is determining the winners in everything mobile. The most successful players are focusing on one thing: How to make products, services, and devices as compelling and delightful as possible – visually, and experientially. MobileBeat 2012, July 10-11 in San Francisco , is assembling the most elite minds to debate how UI/UX is transforming every aspect of the mobile economy, and where the opportunities lie. Register here.