Nearly half of smartphone users in the United States heavily rely on mobile apps to facilitate their travel plans. This trend has propelled popular travel apps to swiftly regain their pre-pandemic revenue figures, with some achieve remarkable growth.
It is hardly surprising, considering that contemporary travel applications offer an easy way to compare prices for tickets and accommodations. Most enable seamless bookings for various travel-related services, such as sightseeing tours and currency exchange.
If you operate a business in the travel industry, it is increasingly expected that you offer a dedicated app to cater to the needs of your clientele.
In this blog post, we will guide you through the following key topics:
Popular travel application concepts;
Various business models examination;
A detailed breakdown of the travel app development process;
An analysis of cost-related factors and more.
By the end of this article, you will have acquired an understanding of the types of travel apps that can potentially provide the highest value to your business, along with actionable insights on how to build your travel application concept to maximize profitability.
Sounds good? Keep on reading.
What is a travel app?
A travel app is a specialized software designed exclusively for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This design choice ensures accessibility, as travelers can conveniently access the travel agency’s services from their pocket, allowing them to obtain necessary assistance while moving.
The core functions of a travel app typically include the ability to book travel flights, modify existing reservations, and view travel itineraries.
How do travel apps work?
Now, companies go beyond the fundamental features in the competitive landscape of travel apps. Each provider introduces a unique set of functionalities to cater to different segments of travelers. This leads to variations in the types of services an app offers and the strategies employed to generate revenue. Let’s explore these differences in more detail.
Travel app types
1. All-in-one apps
These apps do it all. A great example is Booking.com. It lets you check out and book hotels for your trip, find and book flights, rent a car, buy tickets for attractions, and even set up airport transfers.
2. Dedicated apps
This type of travel application focuses on a specific travel need. There are lots of them, such as:
Travel itinerary planning apps
Travel insurance apps
Currency conversion apps
Language translate apps
Travel finance management apps
GPS and navigation apps, and others
For instance, Busbud is a famous dedicated travel app. It helps you find and buy bus and train tickets across the USA, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
3. Segment apps
These apps target specific types of travelers rather than specific services. Take TravelSmart, for example. It caters to people who often travel long distances alone and prioritize their comfort and safety. This travel mobile application gives you real-time info about your destination, like the weather, currency exchange rates, cultural norms, emergency services, and advice on both popular and potentially risky places.
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How do travel apps make money? They generate revenue through various methods; the main ones are:
1. Merchant model
Many travel agents buy tickets and bookings directly from suppliers and then sell them to users. Because they buy in bulk, they get a lower price and make money by selling at a higher rate. They can adjust their profit margin based on market conditions.
2. Commission fees
Another common way is by taking a cut, or commission, from the services listed on the app. This means charging hotels, restaurants, or other providers a small fee for featuring their offerings on the platform. The model is often seen in hotel, flight booking, and car rental apps.
Travel apps can also earn money through in-app advertising. This includes banner ads, interstitials, or sponsored listings. By doing this, they can keep their core features free for users while allowing service providers to reach the app’s user base for a fee.
Some less common but still effective revenue models include:
Subscription plans: Users pay a regular fee to access premium features or content within the app.
Affiliate marketing: The app earns a commission when users make travel bookings or purchases through affiliate links within the app.
In-app purchases: Users can buy virtual goods or extra features within the app
Loyalty programs: Users earn rewards or discounts for using the app frequently or making repeat bookings.
Sponsored content: Companies pay to have their content or promotions featured within the app.
Core features of a travel app
A well-rounded travel app should offer various features to meet travelers’ needs and provide benefits to vendors seeking to attract and retain customers.
Here are some standard travel app features:
Registration and profile
This feature enables users to create personalized accounts, indicate and store preferences, track bookings, and receive tailored travel recommendations. From the business standpoint, the profile creation feature allows the collection of valuable user data, enabling personalized marketing and service recommendations.
Search and filters
A travel app must enable users to find the perfect travel options by specifying destinations, dates, and preferences. Filters refine results, saving users time and ensuring they discover the most relevant choices. Also, by collecting search data, an app owner can better understand user preferences and tailor the offerings.
A listing is a common form of returning search results. It must offer comprehensive details about accommodations, flights, or activities, aiding in informed booking decisions. For better business benefits, ensure that the listing feature in your travel app allows for enticing descriptions and images to encourage vendors to compete.
A messaging option is necessary to facilitate direct communication between users and travel services or hosts. It enables users to clarify doubts or request personalized assistance, enhancing their overall experience. Vendors can use messaging to improve customer trust by offering exceptional customer service.
Booking functionality simplifies the reservation process, allowing users to secure travel arrangements conveniently. Making it easy to book a service from a travel app increases the number of bookings and revenue for providers listed on the app, resulting in higher profits for the app owner.
Reviews empower users to share their travel experiences, assisting others in making informed choices. Ratings and detailed feedback build trust and confidence in bookings. It also helps vendors improve services and address concerns, enhancing overall customer satisfaction.
Notifications keep users informed about critical updates related to their travel plans, ensuring they stay organized and up-to-date while traveling. They can also be used to promote special offers and upsell opportunities.
In-app payment offers users a secure and convenient way to finalize their bookings and manage travel-related expenses. This facilitates completed transactions, reduces booking abandonment rates, and improves revenue.
How to create a travel app in four steps?
Travel app development is actually just one phase within the broader process of creating a travel application. Before coding a mobile solution, it is essential to thoroughly conceptualize your idea and confirm its alignment with market demands.
1. Ideate and validate
Start by brainstorming travel app ideas that address specific traveler needs or pain points. Explore and assess the potential functionalities and features related to itinerary planning, booking, navigation, or local recommendations.
Proceed by conducting thorough market research to validate your app idea. Analyze the competition, study user reviews of existing travel apps, and identify gaps or areas for improvement.
Finally, create detailed user personas to understand your target audience’s preferences, behaviors, and challenges. This will help in tailoring your app to their needs.
2. Decide on features and platforms
Based on user research and market analysis, decide on the core features and functionalities your travel app will offer. Prioritize features that enhance the user experience, such as easy booking, personalized recommendations, and user-generated content.
While it’s too early to talk about the user Interface (UI) design at this stage, you shall have a general idea of what you want your application to look like. In your sketches, emphasize user engagement and seamless navigation.
Lastly, decide whether to develop a native app (iOS and Android), a hybrid app, or a progressive web app (PWA). You should talk to a trusted mobile app development services provider to choose an optimal option for your case.
3. Find a development team
When choosing a travel app development company or an individual app developer, consider factors like experience, expertise, relevant industry knowledge, and a successful track record. Syndicode, for example, has vast expertise in mobile app development for marketplace businesses, as seen from its featured projects page.
After you make your choice, establish clear lines of communication with your development team. Regular updates, feedback sessions, and project management tools are essential for a smooth development process.
When selecting a development strategy, consider adopting an agile development approach. It allows flexibility in adapting to changing requirements and feedback during the travel app development process, which is crucial for startups and beneficial for established businesses.
4. Monitor, approve, test, and suggest
Conduct rigorous testing after the app’s development to identify and rectify any bugs or issues. Upon launch, encourage users to provide feedback through in-app prompts and surveys. Collect and analyze this feedback to understand user preferences and pain points.
Then, return to your development team with the collected feedback for regular updates and improvements. Users appreciate apps that evolve based on their needs.
Don’t forget about marketing your travel app. Create a marketing plan that includes app store optimization, social media marketing, and other promotional strategies to reach a wider audience and encourage downloads.
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It’s essential to carefully weigh the strengths and weaknesses of different technologies for travel mobile app development. The ideal tech stack must align with the technical requirements of your software solution, ensure security, and be viable and popular enough to ensure you can always find knowledgeable developers to maintain and update your app.
Popular technologies used for travel app development include:
Flutter is Google’s UI toolkit aimed at building natively compiled mobile, web, and desktop applications from a single codebase. Flutter is your friend if you prioritize a polished and smooth UI experience.
Swift, Objective-C, Java, or Kotlin are your friends if you opt for native app development instead of cross-platform.
Ruby on Rails is a framework for building web applications using the Ruby programming language. It prioritizes developer productivity and easy maintainability of applications.
MongoDB is a NoSQL database for handling unstructured or semi-structured data.
MySQL is a relational database management system widely used for structured data, transactions, and data integrity.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides various cloud computing services, including server hosting, storage, databases, and more, as well as extensive global data center coverage.
Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers cloud-based services and infrastructure for app development and deployment. It is chosen when the project priorities lie with Google’s machine learning and data analytics capabilities, and seamless integration with Google’s ecosystem is necessary.
Mapping and location services:
Google Maps API offers robust mapping and location-based services for apps.
Mapbox provides customizable maps, navigation, and location search SDKs. It works best for applications requiring unique, branded maps.
Factors affecting tech stack choice for travel app development
Consider whether you want to develop for iOS, Android, or both. Cross-platform frameworks like React Native and Flutter can save development time by sharing code across platforms, but it also means that access to native features may be limited.
Some combinations of technologies and frameworks allow for faster travel application development due to their ease of use and ready-made components.
Opt for technologies that your development team is experienced with. Using unfamiliar technologies may lead to longer development times and potential pitfalls.
Different technologies come with varying costs of licensing and hosting expenses. Consider your budget and long-term maintenance costs.
Choose technologies that perform well for your feature set to ensure smooth user interactions and fast loading times.
If you expect your app to experience high user traffic or plan to add more features later, your tech stack should be able to handle scalability without major architectural changes.
Security is paramount in travel apps, which often handle sensitive user data. Choose technologies with robust security features and consider compliance with data protection regulations.
Consider integrating with third-party APIs such as payment gateways, mapping services, and booking platforms.
Choose technologies with a strong track record that will likely remain relevant and supported. Also, consider whether the chosen stack allows for easy integration of new features or technologies as your app evolves.
Cost of a travel app development
We have an extensive guide answering how much it costs to build a mobile app. In short, the price can vary significantly based on various factors. Here are the key factors that influence the cost:
The location of your development team or agency can significantly impact costs due to varying labor rates worldwide. For instance, according to Indeed, the average base salary for a software engineer in the USA is approximately $116,000 annually. In contrast, according to data from Payscale, French software developers earn an average equivalent of roughly $46,000 per year. Meanwhile, an average IT engineer in Eastern Europe commands an annual salary of approximately $30,000, making it the most affordable location to outsource your project.
When choosing travel app developers, it’s essential to consider cost and the team’s expertise and experience in creating solutions similar to your travel app. Request quotes from several development companies in different regions and assess their capabilities to ensure they can meet your project requirements effectively.
Platform (iOS, Android, Web)
Developing for multiple platforms increases costs. Native travel application development for iOS and Android separately is typically more expensive than building a cross-platform app that works on both. Adding a web version can also affect costs.
The number and nature of features, functionalities, and integrations directly impact app development costs. More complex apps with advanced features will require more development time and resources. Integrating with external services such as payment gateways, mapping APIs, or social media platforms can incur additional licensing costs.
One might assume that a shorter timeline leads to lower costs. However, rushed development projects often incur higher costs due to overtime pay and a higher likelihood of errors. A reasonable timeline can help manage costs.
App design and user experience
Intricate designs, animations, and user interactions require more design and development effort.
Data security and compliance
If your app handles sensitive user data, you may need to invest in robust security measures and compliance with data protection regulations, which can add development costs.
Marketing and promotion
While not part of development, marketing and promotion are critical for app success. Budgeting for marketing activities is essential to ensure your app reaches its target audience.
To determine the exact cost of travel app development, it’s crucial to define your project’s specific requirements and conduct a detailed scope analysis. As a starting point, you can estimate how much it will cost to build your app using a custom software development project cost estimation guide.
Additional considerations for travel app development
If you’re still in the ideation phase, the following information can assist you in finding the best solution for your business, which is likely to succeed in the current market.
Top popular travel app types in 2023
According to numerous reports, topping the list of the most downloaded travel apps are Google Maps, Booking.com, and Uber. Following closely behind are Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Lyft. Other notable travel apps gaining traction include BlaBlaCar, Agoda, and Maps.me.
The fastest-growing category, which refers to apps experiencing the most significant increase in downloads, includes the following types of applications:
Transport apps, such as train and bus ticket booking applications, taxi, scooter rentals, and ridesharing;
Flight booking apps;
Accommodation booking apps. Applications in this category tend to merge with other travel app types, most often with transport and flight booking;
Travel guide apps that enable users to plan their itinerary.
Extra features to consider for a successful travel app
Although we’ve previously discussed the must-have features that define a travel app, these alone may not set your app apart from the competition. You need a unique feature or a combination of features that significantly enhance the service your customers receive when using the app. Here are some ideas derived from analyzing user reviews of travel apps:
Augmented Reality (AR) exploration
Enable travelers to point their phone’s camera at landmarks to see historical information, nearby attractions and even overlay virtual tour guides or information in real time.
Personalized travel AI
Implement an AI-powered travel assistant that learns user preferences over time. It can suggest personalized travel itineraries and recommend activities, restaurants, and hotels based on past choices and user profiles.
Local experiences marketplace
Create a platform within your app where locals can offer unique experiences to travelers, such as guided tours, cooking classes, or art workshops. This can foster authentic connections between travelers and the local community.
Group travel planning
Allow users to create and manage group trips. The app can help with group itinerary planning, expense tracking, and communication among group members.
Environmental impact tracking
Provide information on the carbon footprint of transportation options, suggest eco-friendly accommodations, and offer tips for sustainable travel.
Language learning integration
Integrate language learning tools into your app to help travelers pick up essential phrases and words in the local language. This can enhance the travel experience and promote cultural understanding.
Virtual Reality (VR) travel previews
Offer 360-degree VR previews of destinations, allowing users to explore a location virtually before they decide to book. This can be particularly useful for remote or less-visited places.
Local emergency assistance
Provide a feature that connects travelers with local emergency services, such as hospitals, police, or embassies, in case of emergencies.
Exclusive deals and loyalty rewards
Partner with local businesses to offer exclusive discounts and rewards to app users, encouraging loyalty and repeat bookings.
Artificial Intelligence chatbot
Implement a conversational AI chatbot that can answer user queries, provide recommendations, and assist with everyday travel-related tasks, such as booking changes or cancellations.
Travel challenges and gamification
Create travel challenges or games encouraging users to explore new places, complete tasks, or earn rewards for engaging with the app.
Thanks to technological advancements, global travel is becoming more accessible and popular. Travel apps have become essential, offering travelers convenience, information, and valuable services. So, if you’re considering developing a new mobile travel app, now is a good time.
However, it’s important to recognize that the travel market is highly competitive. To maximize your chances of success, you must adopt a strategic approach that includes thorough market research, meticulous planning, careful execution, and ongoing efforts to meet user needs and market demands.
Hopefully, this guide has given you fundamental information to kickstart your travel app development journey. And remember, if you have any questions, the professionals at Syndicode are here to help!
Not sure what an efficient software development process should look like?
Compare different software development models and see the main steps of the process and their purpose in our recent guide.
Travel application development refers to the process of creating and building software applications specifically designed to assist travelers with various aspects of their journeys. These apps are created for use on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, making them easily accessible to travelers while on the go. Tourism app development encompasses various functionalities and features to enhance the travel experience, such as itinerary planning and management, destination research, accommodation booking, and more.
How to make a good travel app?
A good travel app should help users travel comfortably. It must offer intuitive navigation, real-time updates on flights and accommodations, robust search filters, offline functionality, and secure payment options. It should provide comprehensive destination information, including maps, local tips, and reviews. Personalization features like tailored recommendations and itinerary planning enhance user experience. Additionally, excellent customer support and frequent updates for bug fixes and new features are essential for a top-notch travel app.
How long does it take to develop a travel app?
Depending on complexity, travel app development typically takes several months to a year or more. It depends on several factors, including the desired features, platform (iOS, Android, both), team size, and development speed. You must define the app’s specific functionalities, design requirements, and integrations to receive a preliminary estimate. Once these details are clear, travel app development services can provide an approximate time frame, which varies based on unforeseen challenges and changes during development. At Syndicode, we minimize the deviations by conducting thorough risk assessments. In our quote, you will see time and cost estimates for best and worst-case scenarios so you can adjust your plans accordingly.
Why are travel apps important?
Travel apps development is important for a modern traveler due to its convenience, offering one-stop solutions for planning, booking, and navigating trips. They provide real-time updates, saving time and offering cost-effective options. Personalization features tailor travel experiences, while reviews and feedback ensure informed choices. These apps also enhance safety with emergency information. Additionally, they contribute to sustainability by reducing paper waste. In today’s fast-paced world, travel apps have become indispensable tools, making travel planning and exploration more accessible and enjoyable.