Yesterday, same-day hotel booking iPhone app LastRoom officially launched, offering discounted last-minute rooms in Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Puebla, Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Morelia, and Playa del Carmen. It has signed up some of the largest hotel chains in Mexico.
Today the American pioneer of this type of app, HotelTonight, goes south of the border, launching coverage in Mexico City and Acapulco. It is focusing on independently owned properties, such as Hotel Habita in Mexico City and Las Brisas Hotel Collection in Acapulco.
Latin America's home-grown talent
LastRoom, the creation of a six-person team of Mexico City, is one of the nascent stars of the Latin American start-up scene, having come out of NxtpLabs, an Argentinian startup accelerator, which has mentors like Alec Oxenford (OLX), Wenceslao Casares (Bling Nation & Lemon), and the founders of Mercado Libre.
LastRoom's CEO, Josue Gio, says the app will soon have rooms available in Argentina and Brazil. He touts the statistic that there are 50,000,000 smartphones in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, meaning that mobile hotel booking could spread like wildfire.
The best-funded startup looks to expand quickly
HotelTonight, which has been downloaded 3.7 million times according to the company, also announced today that it is expanding in Europe beyond London with hotels in Paris, Nice, Brussels, and Amsterdam. That brings the app to 70-plus destinations worldwide.
HotelTonight's app has added language support for Spanish, German, Italian, and French. It has also added payment options for foreign currencies — peso, euro, pound, and Canadian dollar.
These back-end changes were a huge technical undertaking for the company, according to co-founder Sam Shank. Managing the product map and doing agile Web development has been a challenge, as the company has added 50 people to its payroll in the past year, including some data scientists. While consumers may not be impressed because they take currency and language options for granted, they were difficult problems to solve.
Hotel credits as a promotion tool
HotelTonight has made the use of a small free credit ($25) toward a first booking an essential part of its marketing tool. As it expands to Europe, it is sticking with the plan, offering a discount of $25CAD, £15 GBP, €20 EUR, or $300 MXN off a user's first booking.
It's also offering a way for users to buy credits to give as gifts to other app users.
LastRoom has, as in several other details, mimicked this feature, with 100 pesos toward a first booking.