Travellers worldwide wanting to book a hotel room on the go will soon have another tool to help guide them.
Expedia announced today that it will debut its first hotel booking app for the iPhone and iPod Touch within a few weeks time. An Android version will launch about a month after that. The free app will let customers search for hotels using a simplified version of Expedia.com's standard interface, with maps and photos. Conveniently, the details about your hotel stay will automatically be added to your device's calendar after you book a room.
However, Expedia is a bit late to the app-making game. The company's only previous effort was a mediocre travel-management tool called TripAssist, which pales in comparison to the functionality and popularity of rival tools TripIt and TripDeck.
Expedia's new hotels app isn't that innovative, either. For example, it uses your device's GPS signal to pinpoint your location, and its default search results will list hotels by their closeness to you. But Priceline pioneered those techniques with its Hotel & Car Negotiator app in 2009. Other apps, such as HotelsTonight, perfected the use of slick interfaces and gorgeous photos a while ago.
That said, Expedia Hotels will still be worth downloading for two reasons: no other app can provide as many accommodations listings combined with hotel ratings from user-review giant TripAdvisor. Plus, this app signals a promising fresh direction for the online travel agency.
Scott Durchslag, the new president of Expedia Worldwide, compared his company to US online movie retailer Netflix, known for its technological innovations and brand recognition. "Within three to five years, we want customers to think of us as 'TripFlix,' so to speak – a company streaming the best travel offers to you, on whatever screen you're using at any given moment," Durchslag said.
The first version of the Expedia Hotels app will do without some nice-to-have features. Consumers will have to manually create profiles, with their billing information, on the devices themselves. Future versions of the app may allow users to transfer their existing Expedia.com profiles. The app also won't store any information about trips booked directly through the website instead of through the app, which could lead to confusion if a customer can't remember how he or she booked a trip.
So consumers, as always, need to shop around. We've yet to find the app (or website) that offers one-stop shopping for the lowest hotel prices.