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Hipmunk, a popular startup striving to make travel search easier, released a mobile app for booking last-minute hotel deals today. The “Tonight Only” feature gives travelers up to 60 percent off hotel rooms that are booked that same day.

HotelTonight pioneered this model in 2010. Each day at noon, the app presents offers for available hotel rooms at steep discounts. This helps travelers find affordable accommodation on the fly and helps hotels fill rooms that would otherwise have gone unsold. HotelTonight’s CEO Sam Shank told VentureBeat that the company “invented the category of last-minute hotel-booking books.” In the wake of its success, the market has been flooded with similar products, including apps from Kayak, Priceline, Expedia, Blink, Hotels Now, and HotelQuickly.

Now Hipmunk is entering this space as well. Hipmunk started as a service to take the “agony” out of flight search. It released a hotel search engine in 2011 that was fairly slow and difficult to use. The company overhauled the product and released a new version in November with signifiant improvements.

Hipmunk CEO Adam Goldstein said that 50 percent of hotel searches performed in Hipmunk’s mobile app are from travelers looking for last-minute rooms. The Tonight Only feature aggregates hotel deals from multiple providers without restriction on cities or time of day. Listings are sortable by Hipmunk’s “ecstasy” ranking as well as by price, reviews, amenities, and such. Certain deals will be available up to three days in advance.

Last-minute booking is by no means a new or novel concept, but the company said its version of the service, with more filters and flexibility, distinguishes it from competitors.

Hipmunk emerged out of elite accelerator program Y Combinator. Goldstein is emphatic about the importance of focusing on customers’ needs and Hipmunk consistently releases new products and updates. The site now includes a premium account product for booking corporate travel and a calendar-sync tool, and Hipmunk recently released a new page called “Flight Deals” to check for promotions before booking airfare.

Hipmunk is based in San Francisco and has raised a total of $20.2 million to date.


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