How to Create a Hotel Booking Website Like Booking.com
Last year, the global online travel market totaled $475 billion, a figure projected to more than double by 2030, reaching over $1 trillion. Booking.com and Expedia share nearly 20% of the total hotel booking market share between themselves. Still, lower barriers to entry, higher profitability, and increasing market demand for online booking and travel-related services have enticed hundreds of new entrepreneurs to enter the industry.
Building a platform that helps travelers book hotels online is tremendously valuable. 83% of Americans want to book online, and online platforms allow customers to compare multiple options on one screen. The good news for founders is they no longer need to be the best web developers or marketing geniuses to do it.
In this article, we break down exactly how to create a hotel booking website to make the process straightforward and achievable.
Understanding the Hotel Booking Website Concept
Before learning how to create a hotel booking website, it's important to see the complete picture of what its main purpose, features, and user base look like. At its core, a hotel booking website is a platform that enables users to browse and book hotels online. It lets customers compare options, search for available rooms in their chosen destination, compare prices, read reviews, and make reservations without having to navigate between different hotel websites.
Key Features of a Successful Hotel Booking Website
Like most digital products, learning how to create a hotel booking website doesn't require reinventing the wheel. Most hotel websites have six basic features:
1. Comprehensive hotel listings and search functionality
For users and hotel businesses, the main value-add of a hotel booking website is its listings and search functions. Users love that they don't have to spend time browsing multiple sites and switching tabs to find the best deal. Hotel owners love the additional exposure and marketing opportunities a dedicated platform offers. Here's what this means for new market entrants:
- Users won't stay on the platform unless its search feature is highly intuitive.
- Businesses won't want to list or advertise on the website if they don't get enough exposure from it.
Since these two factors dramatically impact the website's ability to grow and monetize, the listings and search pages should be the focal point when developing a new hotel booking site.
2. Detailed hotel information and images
From initial research to final consideration, every stage of the booking process requires great attention to detail, according to research from MarketSampler. In the study, respondents described what information would constitute a "good first impression" and what would help sway their decision later in the process. All the factors revolve around photos, videos, and hotel information (the more detailed, the better).
Here are a few takeaways from the results:
- High-quality photos are the essential factor in making a good first impression, with nearly 33% of respondents saying they'd only look for hotels that provided them.
- In the consideration stage, videos, product presentations, and photos (particularly those of food and restaurants) are the most valuable, as is the hotel's ability to showcase its overall experience. Factors like location, style, and uniqueness are less crucial when deciding.
- When it comes time to book, transparent pricing, value-added offers, and discount availability are the most important for about two-thirds of prospective travelers.
- The biggest deal breakers are unappealing food photos, lack of detail, pretentious content in hotel descriptions, and boring rooms and presentations.
Most hotels create and manage their own content, even when it's on a third-party site. However, it is still the website owner's responsibility to know exactly what customers are looking for and maximize conversions for their listing partners.
3. User reviews and ratings
Data from TripAdvisor indicates that 72% of people frequently or always look at reviews as a major component of their research process. When they use an online booking site, they're more likely to trust businesses that other customers have verified.
User reviews also connect the website and its visitors, creating a sense of community and trust. Solid ratings can also serve as one more incentive for users to book with the company.
4. Booking and reservation management
If users have to jump between platforms just to complete their booking, they probably won't complete it. To be truly valuable, booking websites must fully manage the booking process, acting as the customer and hotel liaison. The booking feature should also have a few key components:
- A clear overview of available rooms, rates, and amenities to simplify the selection process
- Clear payment options and cancellation policies that are easy for both customers and hotels to understand
- Robust functionality that allows admins to manage bookings easily, including the ability to update or delete them quickly
- A secure system for customers and hotels to securely store their payment information for future bookings
- Integration with other services and calendars to streamline communication between the hotel, customer, and website
5. Payment processing and security
Securing is one of the most critical parts of learning how to create a hotel booking website. Security is important for four reasons:
- To protect customers' personal information from malicious attacks
- To protect the website from fraudulent transactions
- To comply with regulations like PCI DSS and GDPR
- It significantly impacts SEO performance
The basics of website security include data encryption (TLS), two-factor authentication, firewalls, HTTPS, and an SSL certificate (which comes standard with most hosting services). For a smooth transaction process, an online hotel booking website should offer multiple payment options that are both convenient and secure.
Most booking websites use third-party payment processors to transact securely, then integrate credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay into the booking process for an even smoother customer experience.
From a web development standpoint, this actually makes the process easier. The payment processor handles all the complexities of secure payment processing. Since they're designed to accept multiple forms of payment, using a third-party processor will also improve the website's conversion rate.
6. Customer support and communication tools
Customers using a third-party booking website want to know their questions and concerns are taken seriously. Offering customers a quick and hassle-free way to manage their bookings, find answers to questions, and get help with any booking-related issues are all essential features for a successful hotel booking website. Most websites offer customer service through live chat, phone support, and email. Each of these can be automated with an online chatbot and help desk software.
Identifying the target audience
Hotel booking websites have two distinct audience segments: travelers and hotel operators. The website should be easy to navigate for travelers and tourists, with clear visuals and simple language. It should interact more like an app than a website, with intuitive user flows, easily accessible clickable assets, and a minimal number of steps to complete a booking. Since nearly half of travelers make travel bookings on a mobile device, these features should also translate well to mobile browsers.
Hotel operators need access to the backend of the booking website to manage their bookings and respond quickly to customer inquiries. They need features that make it easy to customize room availability, add amenities, update rates, and respond to customer reviews.
To ensure every website user gets what they need, the website must cater to both audiences. A well-thought-out design plan and intuitive navigation will go a long way in making sure hotel operators and customers alike have a positive experience with the booking website.
Planning and Designing the Hotel Booking Website
Designing a hotel booking website requires a different approach than most other digital platforms. Most importantly, it needs to be easy for users to book travel and for hotel operators to manage their properties. Creating cohesion between the two separate user types is key to creating a successful hotel booking website.
Market research and competitor analysis
Studying websites that are already successful can show new web developers how to create a hotel booking website of their own.
- What does the website do well?
- What problems come up while using it?
- Does it perform well on mobile?
- Can it accomplish all the most important tasks for hotel operators and customers?
- Is it simple enough to navigate without too much complexity?
Developing a hotel booking site doesn't require developers to reinvent the wheel. Looking at competing websites gives insight into what users expect when booking a hotel room.
For niche hotel booking websites (luxury booking platforms, budget-friendly sites), it helps to consider the target hotel listing prospects for a cohesive experience. Luxury hotels, for instance, use colors like gold, silver, and black. Their owners and operators will likelier list and advertise on a booking site that matches their own brand.
Defining website requirements and functionalities
1. User stories and feature prioritization
2. Design mockups and wireframes
Fully functional hotel booking websites have countless features, but most of them won't make it to the MVP. Even if they could, they would overcomplicate the process to no end. To efficiently roll out a new digital product, it must be developed on core features that developers can test, improve, and build upon.
It helps to map out user stories (what different kinds of users will likely do on the website) and prioritize the features that lead them from point A (starting their hotel search) to point B (booking a hotel for their upcoming trip). For a hotel booking website that includes:
- A search function
- A comprehensive list of hotels and properties
- The ability to book a room with different payment options
- A way to track customer preferences and reviews
- User access control features (for hotel owners and operators)
- Integration with third-party services (payment gateways, CRM systems, and help desk software)
Then, design mockups and wireframes can tie everything together and guide the product development process. There are three types of wireframes:
- Low-fidelity wireframes are rough sketches that give a general idea of how the website might look, don't require complex coding, and can be quickly updated if ideas change.
- Mid-fidelity wireframes are more detailed, including color palettes, fonts, and several design elements.
- A high-fidelity wireframe is a fully functional web page, but it still lacks the real content that will be included in the final product.
Add the UI elements to create a mockup after creating high-fidelity wireframes in Figma (or any other design software). Then, download the files, use a merge PDF tool to centralize them, and use them as a reference when developing the product.
Selecting the right technology stack
No one language comprises the entire hotel booking website, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to integrated technology. It helps to use a tool like Wappalyzer (a free Chrome plugin that immediately shows users the technologies a website runs on). This can provide some quick inspiration for developers who aren't sure how to create a hotel booking site.
Booking.com, for instance, is mostly powered by Perl 5, a highly capable, feature-rich programming language that provides excellent text processing facilities, which is particularly useful in handling large amounts of data.
This makes it a particularly good fit for the back end of a hotel booking site, where handling and managing extensive databases of hotels, rooms, bookings, and user information are crucial tasks. The site has gradually incorporated Java, Python, and Go into its tech stack, where these languages offer specific advantages over Perl. For example:
- Thanks to its efficient multithreading abilities, go is useful in scenarios requiring high concurrency, such as real-time bookings.
- Python handles Hadoop and Spark-related tasks thanks to its ease of use, simplicity, and availability of powerful data processing libraries.
- Java's platform independence, security features, and robustness handle complex, large-scale applications to improve the functionality and reliability of the platform.
As for database management, Booking.com uses R for data science and machine learning tasks and MySQL for traditional database management. Beyond databases, front-end, and backend languages, tech stack considerations include:
- Web hosting: Depending on the size and scope of the booking website, they may choose to go with a shared hosting provider or a more powerful virtual private server (VPS).
- Web development frameworks: Frameworks are libraries of code that speed up the development process, making them essential for efficient coding.
- CDN: To improve speed and performance, a content delivery network (CDN) can be used to offload some of the content from their servers.
- API integrations: Third-party services (like payment gateways, CRM systems, and help desk software) need to be integrated into the hotel booking website for it to be fully functional.
Developing the Hotel Booking Website
Once developers understand the basics of how to create a hotel booking website and have laid the groundwork, they can begin the actual development process.
Assembling the development team
When building a hotel booking site, one of the most critical decisions will be whether to develop it in-house or outsource the project to an agency or team of freelancers. Each has distinct advantages and drawbacks.
In-house development typically provides greater control, faster response times, and lower overhead costs but requires more resources to manage the project from start to finish. There are also several associated costs:
- Hiring and training developers
- Purchasing or leasing the necessary hardware
- Software licenses for development tools and technologies
- The cost of maintaining a dedicated team once development is complete
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average web developer makes $78,300 per year, and a successful product requires multiple developers with different skill sets. All factors considered, that mean a web development project could easily end up costing over $250,000.
Outsourcing reduces development costs dramatically. Hiring an agency costs between $12,000 to $150,000, but a realistic expectation for one who knows how to create a hotel booking site is between $50,000 and $100,000 (depending on functionality). That's about the salary of one developer.
Implementing the development process
When it comes to web development project management, Agile is the way to go, which is an iterative approach that emphasizes collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement.
At each step in the software development life cycle (SDLC), developers use Agile principles to build the product incrementally rather than waiting to release a single version at the end of the project. There are a few benefits to this:
- Active customer involvement: Since Agile development involves frequent feedback from stakeholders, it's easy to incorporate changes.
- Frequent testing and validation: With frequent updates and iterations, testing and validating progress and pinpoint issues before they become problematic is easier.
- Higher quality product: Agile encourages developers to focus on producing high-quality code rather than rushing through the project.
The process begins with a series of sprints, which are short, intensive coding sessions that last anywhere from a week to a month. During each sprint, the development team works on specific tasks to complete within the timeframe. Later in the process, automated testing, unit tests, peer code reviews, and user acceptance testing guide development and ensure the product is ready for launch.
Quality assurance and testing
Going through the entire development process without testing the product would be like buying a car without driving it first. Regarding how to create a hotel booking website, there are four factors to test for functionality, user acceptance, security, and performance.
- User acceptance testing (UAT) and functional testing verify the product works from the user's standpoint. Testers (in this case, prospective travelers and hotel operators) give feedback on usability, design, and accessibility.
- Security and performance testing ensures vulnerability protection while maintaining a smooth user experience. Developers will look for SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and other security threats while monitoring speed and scalability.
In this stage of product development, the true value of the Agile approach reveals itself: Security, performance, and functional problems are less costly to fix when they're identified early in the development cycle.
Launching and Marketing the Hotel Booking Site
Knowing how to create a hotel booking site and carrying through with the development are only two parts of the battle. Unfortunately, a perfectly-built website doesn't guarantee success.
Before finalizing the website for public release, beta testing gives developers one last opportunity to test and fix any bugs or issues. To find beta users for the website, most developers do one of the following:
- Submit their startup to BetaList and get matched with testers.
- Post on Reddit, Quora, or other Q&A forums and enlist people to try the product.
- Reach out to a target audience via email or social media.
- Post on Upwork and Fiverr to find testers.
Building a waitlist helps hotel booking site owners build relationships with their early adopters when preparing for launch. Having a close network of hotel owners, operators, and executives who plan to use your site and hundreds (or thousands) of prospective users right off the bat makes it easier to build the company later on.
Marketing and promotion strategies
Marketing and promotion are just as crucial for a successful hotel booking website as the development process. Some marketing elements, such as SEO and content marketing, are loosely related to web development (as in, the website and its content should be created with SEO in mind), while other strategies (like PR and growth hacking) have little to do with code. In terms of marketing tactics specific to a hotel booking website, here are a few ideas:
- Offer early adopters promotional discounts and loyalty.
- Create an affiliate program where travel bloggers and websites earn a commission for referring customers.
- Create content that helps people learn how to use the website more effectively (e.g., how-to guides, trip planning tutorials).
- Partner with hotel chains to increase the site's presence across the web.
- Create a rewards program for frequent travelers or those who book multiple rooms.
- Work with influencers to increase brand awareness and website traffic.
- Create a TikTok account and post travel-related content.
- Run targeted ads for location-based keywords (e.g., "luxury hotels in Tulum")
Most importantly, a new hotel booking website owners need to remember not to spread themselves too thin. Instead of going after several marketing channels, they should focus on one or two growth strategies that suit their skills and hire for the rest as they grow their revenue.
Post-Launch Website Maintenance and Growth
As the business develops, its owners will find their bread and butter. User data will show them where they need to improve or add features, and new partner relationships will indicate profitable niches.
Continuous improvement and feature updates
Consider some of the most beloved and feature-rich websites and apps:
- Snapchat became popular because it prevented users from screenshotting others' messages.
- Amazon was a highly efficient bookstore.
- Slack started out as a simple chat client for a tiny gaming company.
Almost every wildly successful platform started out with only a few core features. Part of learning how to create a hotel booking website is recognizing what those features are and finding where they fit into the equation.
Here, users are the best source of information. Sending surveys to email lists, collecting backend data from user actions using Google Analytics and Hotjar, and monitoring social media feedback help web developers understand what features their customers need.
Partner engagement and management
End users are critical to the day-to-day success of a hotel booking website, but its strategic partners are the ones who guarantee its survival. Partnering with hotel chains, tour operators, and other travel-related companies can open up opportunities for the website to become a one-stop shop for customers' vacation planning needs.
The key here is to stay active in the partner relationship by monitoring contracts, continuously prospecting for new partners that fit the ideal profile, and helping them with their marketing initiatives. Eventually, it could help to hire a sales team and partnership manager internally.
Learning how to create a hotel booking website like Booking.com starts with understanding the concept as a whole, then simplifying it to create something intuitive and useful for the end user.
Successful hotel booking website owners are constantly learning from their customers and partners—they talk to them, survey them, and look at the data. For scalability and long-term success, creators don't need to think "big." They just need to think smart, starting small and making gradual improvements.