Last minute travel always comes with a host of troubles including the inconvenience of booking hotels and high fares. Kolkata-based online travel startup CheckInTonight aims to solve this with its last minute hotel reservation website Checkintonight.com.
Launched in April 2012, the site enables customers to book hotel stays starting the same day or the next day only, but at discounted prices. Unlike regular travel portals, the site is targets niche users -- people travelling on unplanned vacations, last minute out-of-town business meetings or emergencies, or those just looking for a weekend getaway.
"The demand for last minute travel is increasing primarily driven by busier lives, multiple locations/towns/tourist destinations around Tier 1 cities being developed (that are easily accessible), decline in cost of air travel, and developing road/highway infrastructure that make driving to destinations easier," said Abhyuday Prashad, founder, CheckInTonight.
The startup was founded by Prashad in August 2011. A graduate from Georgetown University, prior to CheckInTonight, he has worked at Citibank and technology-focused PE firm Franciso Partners. As of now, the site is offering bookings in around 70 hotels in eight cities that include New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Goa. The company plans to increase this number to 12-15 cities and 125-150 hotels by early next year.
For revenues, the startup charges a commission for each booking done through the website, while the listing is free for the hotels. Users can do bookings by either signing-in with their existing Facebook accounts or by signing-up with their e-mail addresses. At a time, customers can book a room for up to nine nights.
We tried out the site and found it to be relatively easy to navigate and user-friendly. The hotels are listed in a simple manner (one below the other) and details like prices of the rooms, its facilities and amenities, photographs (of the room and the hotel) as well as directions to the hotel have been provided. The hotels can also be filtered according to their starts, starting from a three-star hotel to a five-star property.
The company, which was low-key till a little while ago, ramped up its marketing efforts just a month and a half back.
"The first few months were mostly about getting hotels to sign up with us. We signed up a bulk of them after going live since the hotels were much more comfortable signing up once they saw the site," said Prashad.
Travel booking site Cleartrip is also offering a similar last minute booking service called Quickeys that was launched back in June 2012. Quickeys offers discounts on last minute bookings in 50 cities and for up to six nights.
(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)