A step-by-step guide to travel software development: Market trends, suitable tech stack, and costs.

Key facts about travel software development

Are you a startup entrepreneur in the travel industry looking to develop a cutting-edge travel app, but worried about the high costs and lengthy development timelines that come with it? The fear of investing in an app development project only to see it drain your resources can be a daunting prospect. To help you avoid these uncertainties, we have created an article to describe the key travel software market trends and provide the real-life story of our project to make the process of developing the custom software solution less bewildering.

Travel software market stats

The size of the global online travel market has reached 600 billion U.S. dollars in 2023 and is projected to keep growing in the upcoming years. Nowadays, travel software generates about two-thirds of the revenue in the travel and tourism sector, according to Statista. Here are some more takeaways from research about digitalization in the travel industry:

  • As for Statista's Digital Market Outlook, the global revenue of travel apps rose by 17% in 2023 reaching $400 million.
  • According to consumer surveys in the USA, things like hotels, flight tickets, and car rentals were the most popular travel services and goods bought online. Besides a smooth booking experience, users are ready for innovations like VR tours to the desired destinations and mobile travel solutions, like using an app to discover new tourist attractions or check into a hotel room.
  • Besides online booking facilities, users are willing to read reviews about accommodations, restaurants, and travel agencies. This is proven by the fact that TripAdvisor became the most visited travel website in 2023. During the last ten years, it experienced a fivefold increase in the number of reviews left by users.
  • Social media networks are one of the key factors used by travel business owners for the promotion of their services. The average user engagement with travel-related content is higher than fashion posts. This fact proves the rising overall interest in tourism and travel.
Travel software development: graph reflecting main sources of travel inspiration
Here's the list of sources where users find their travel inspiration

These facts show that interest in traveling stays heated. With global digitalization, travel mobile and web resources continue to be in demand and popular among users. You can implement all kinds of apps in this field: booking apps, review websites, and even apps providing VR tours to popular destinations. Don't be limited by the boldness of your ideas!

Types of apps you can get within travel software development

If you break down the path of the active traveler into steps, it will turn out that these people need an app at almost every step of their journeys: from choosing and booking apartments to converting currencies online. That's why, to succeed with travel app development, you can research the needs of travelers and find the empty niche. You may also choose from one of the existing popular formats listed below:

Booking software solution: One of the main types of apps that you can get within travel software development is booking apps for various entities such as accommodation, flights, transportation, and other services within the trips. These travel apps primarily focus on one type of facility. They present a wide variety of options in different price categories and streamline the booking process for the users. Booking.com, Airbnb, Skyscanner, and others are common examples of this type.

Trip planning apps: Apps like Expedia focus on helping users research and plan their entire trip, including flights, accommodations, and activities. These apps offer a wide range of options and allow users to compare prices, read reviews, and book all aspects of their trip in one place.

In terms of travel software development complexity, trip planning apps typically require more robust features compared to booking apps. They require using a larger number of APIs, databases, and third-party services to provide users with a seamless and comprehensive trip planning experience. On average, they require more resources than an IT service provider and a startupper.

Review websites: Review websites serve as another inspirational resource in the travel industry. A review website app is a platform where users can share their experiences, opinions, and ratings about products, services, businesses, or any other entities. Examples include travel portals like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and others. Booking apps such as Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Agoda include review functionality, allowing customers to find out more about the offers.

Social networking during travels: The travel industry's social networking apps are platforms that enable travelers to connect. Users can use these apps to discover new travel companions, local guides, or potential roommates. Unlike conventional social networks, the main focus of this travel mobile app is to link travelers with individuals who are geographically distant. Examples of such apps include Travello, Couchsurfing, TravelBuddy, and others.

Travel software development: Travello social networking app
In the Travello app, users can find people to travel with and participate in raffles and contests

Hotel management software: Except for web and mobile apps for travelers, you can build an app for hotel staff and offer it to small and middle-sized hotel owners. You may also need a custom solution for your own hotel to streamline the in-house processes. Hotel management software is a comprehensive solution that optimizes operations for accommodation establishments. It assists hotel staff in reservation management, front desk operations, billing, housekeeping, and reporting, enhancing guest experiences and operational efficiency. The hotel management software can be powered by a booking engine, a technology that streamlines the booking process and provides hotel staff with comprehensive analytics.

One example of such a solution is a data management system used by the Marriot hotel network. The custom system created for this company collects information about competitors' prices and ongoing events in the area to automatically adjust rates. As you can see, custom software can solve various problems for business owners in the travel industry.

Modern technologies can be used for implementing all kinds of travel software. During the software development process, you can also create other useful apps for travelers, such as navigators, translation mobile apps, travel portals for facility finding, and travel insurance apps. Alternatively, you may develop your own custom software solution that blends all these formats and covers most of the travelers' needs.

Are you searching for a travel software development company to bring your app idea to reality? If so, leave us a quote!

What are the essential features of the travel booking software?

The number of apps in the travel booking system depends on the format and monetization strategy you're gonna use. Let's imagine that we decide to create an apartment booking app. If the app owner is the one adding apartments to listings, the ecosystem will need two apps: a mobile app for service customers and a web admin panel.

If we decide to build a travel portal similar to Booking.com, there will be a need for three apps: an app for consumers, an app for apartment owners, and an admin panel for administrators.

It's important to note that in terms of software development, there are two ways you can implement booking functionality in the app. You can create a custom solution or use an out-of-box booking engine, which is a ready-made technology that provides users with features for making reservations and bookings directly through the app. Both approaches offer flexibility and customization options, allowing businesses to choose the method that best aligns with their needs and goals for their travel app.

When developing a mobile app for a booking service in the travel industry, it is crucial to include a set of minimum viable product (MVP) features that provide users with a seamless and efficient booking experience. Here are the key features to consider including in the user's mobile app:

  • User registration and login — you can enable sign-up with login and password or via social media. Your users may look through the platform's offers without the sign-in, however, it is essential if they book tours or apartments since they will need to input and store their info.
  • Search and filter options — while receiving travel software development service, develop a robust search functionality with advanced filtering options. It is critical for users to find and book their desired travel services quickly. Incorporating filters for destination, dates, price range, accommodation type, and other preferences will help users find suitable options faster.
  • Booking management — this feature provides users the ability to view and manage their bookings, track reservations, make modifications, and receive booking confirmations and reminders, ensuring a smooth booking process.
  • List of offers — avid tourists need to have access to the destination and apartment descriptions to take the bait. Provide them with photos, ratings, prices, and more.
  • Payment gateway integration — in the process of custom software development don't forget to integrate payment features so users can pay for their bookings directly from the app.
  • Reviews and ratings — enable users to leave reviews and ratings for the services they've booked to help other users make informed decisions. User-generated content adds credibility to the platform and builds trust among users.
  • Push notifications — enable push notifications, so users won't forget about upcoming trips, new offers, discounts, and updates. This will not only keep service customers informed but also raise user engagement.
  • Real-time updates — providing real-time updates on availability, pricing changes, and booking confirmations ensures that users have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips. This feature is crucial for maintaining transparency and delivering a seamless booking experience.
  • In-app messaging — incorporating an in-app messaging feature allows users to communicate directly with service providers, ask questions, and receive timely assistance. This makes the app trustworthy and reduces the user's stress before the trip.
Travel software development: Turkish Airlines mobile app design concept
Here's the Ronas IT redesign on the Turkish Airlines flight ticket booking app

Trends in travel software development

With so many apps around, it might not be enough to incorporate only basic features. To win the hearts of your users, you may add unique features or follow trends and build an engaging travel application. Here are some trends you can follow during travel software development:

Mobile-first approach: According to some studies, the number of smartphone users will keep growing until 2028 and later. Taking this trend into account, many popular travel companies like Booking.com and Airbnb choose the mobile-first approach, meaning they engage in mobile app development first, and only after that develop a web app for their business.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR): You may provide your users with the ability to look through apartments or destinations using AR and VR technologies and provide them with an immersive experience. The AirPano app and various museum-affiliated web apps offer users free 360-degree VR tours. If you are an owner of an apartment booking app, you may add VR tours to your travel software development project to make the app more engaging.

Travel software development: Vitrual tour from the National Museum of Natural History
Virtual tours in the National Museum of Natural History

Artificial intelligence: There are several ways to utilize AI in your travel software. Firstly, you can implement an AI-based chatbot like Sofia from Portugal Airlines or Julie from Amtrak, to streamline your customer support and reduce the load on your staff. Additionally, you can use AI to collect and analyze travelers' data through loyalty programs and provide them with personalized offers based on their preferences.

Travel software development: KAYAK ai-powered feature
For instance, KAYAK travel company utilizes AI for price prediction features

Internet of Things (IoT): IoT devices are increasingly being integrated into travel apps to enhance the overall travel experience. Marriott has implemented an IoT system to enhance the room service. Travelers can ask virtual assistants to set a 7:30 alarm, set the desired water temperature in the shower, or request additional housekeeping services.

Sustainability initiatives: With a growing emphasis on sustainability in the travel industry, travel apps are incorporating features that promote eco-friendly practices. Within your app, you may count the user's carbon footprint on each trip and encourage them to use more sustainable methods of travel.

IoT and AI features are considered advanced. Unfortunately, they can't be implemented without a high level of tech expertise. That's why, if you want these technologies to become your killer features, you'll need to find a tech cofounder, build a strong in-house IT team, or outsource your app development project to a travel software development company.

Monetization strategies in travel software

As with other types of apps, a solid monetization strategy is what will lead your business to success. Below we'll describe key travel software monetization models:

Commission fees

One of the simplest ways to monetize your mobile app is to charge small commissions from hotel, restaurant, and transport service owners for being listed in your app. This model is utilized by Booking.com. The mechanism works as follows: For instance, apartments are listed on Booking.com for $10 per night. The traveler pays $10, the apartment owner receives $8, and Booking.com takes a $2 commission.

In-app advertisements

Another common method you can implement during travel software development is in-app ads. To make ads less annoying, display tourism-related options and charge service owners for ad clicks. For instance, if you manage a flight booking application, users may click on options such as car rental services or a backpack store. The TripAdvisor travel portal is monetized this way.

Looking for a travel software development service provider? We can create a design mockup that seamlessly integrates in-app ads.

Merchant model

Another method to generate revenue with your travel software is through the merchant model, which involves purchasing services like hotel rooms, bus tickets, or guided tours in bulk at a discounted rate and reselling them at a profit. Procuring services in bulk from providers allows you to obtain lower prices than individual customers, enabling you to set a profit margin. Expedia is the travel agency software that utilizes this revenue model. Its gross bookings made $104 billion in 2023.

Freemium model

Incorporate a freemium model to widen your user base. Provide basic features at no cost and offer exclusive content or advanced functionalities for a fee. This approach allows users to explore the app's value before making a purchase, serving as a successful method for acquiring and converting users.

In-app purchases

Finally, incorporating in-app purchases can be used as a method of generating profit. Primarily, individual features can be sold separately instead of bundled into premium packages. For instance, users may purchase access to exclusive listings within the booking app.

Additionally, your app can offer offline services and products. For example, an accommodation booking app might provide transfer options or a translator to assist travelers with check-in processes.

You can choose the only monetization strategy or implement multiple strategies. For example, you can integrate in-app ads and offer a freemium model to remove them.

Ronas IT travel software development experience

After choosing the app format, deciding on the desired features, and planning your revenue model, you can find a travel software development service provider to bring your idea to reality.

In our opinion, nothing makes the software development process clearer than a real-life example. As a travel software development company, we have a prominent case to share.

Travel software development: UK Retreats app screens

Task. The UK Retreats team had a database of unique stays across the UK that they wanted to monetize. That's why they decided to purchase our travel software development service to build a digital product.

Discovery phase. Our manager held a meeting with the client to understand the project specifics and requirements. As a result, we agreed on the following with our customer:

  • Use a mobile-first approach: We analyzed UK Retreat's target audience and understood that they would prefer using mobile devices to book apartments within the app.
  • Engage in web development: In order to align with our client's budget requirements, we had to reduce development expenses. As a result, we decided against developing a native mobile app and website. Instead, we devised a strategy to develop a straightforward, mobile-first web application accessible through a subscription model.
  • Created a list of MVP features: To bring this software solution to the market as soon as possible, it was decided to build a map of stays, a subscription function, and an admin panel for uploading new objects to the database.
  • Develop a landing page: Our customer decided to promote the UK Retreats service via the landing page and asked us to develop it alongside the mobile-first web app.

UI/UX design. During this step of custom travel software development, our team took the following steps together with the customer:

      Created the mind map and wireframes: We typically create a project mind map that outlines all app features and draw wireframes, which we then discuss with the client. These preparatory steps ensure that our team and the client share a common vision of the final product.
      Choose positive and negative UI references: We asked our customers to choose negative references, so we could understand what design features don't match the customer's vision. Ultimately, we agreed on a minimalistic gray and white color palette that finely combined with vivid photos of the UK houses and apartments.
      Designed an interactive map: Since the app focuses solely on Great Britain, UK Retreats aimed to reduce user search time by featuring a country map on the homepage. Although an unconventional design choice, it proved valuable by directing users directly to their desired destination.
Travel software development: interactive map in travel app

Tech stack and coding. Our team usually runs software development projects in close cooperation with our customers. That's why we started the coding stage only after the design mockup was completed and discussed with our customer. While working on this travel software development project, we used our trusted tech stack:

      Frontend part: We build the client part of the interface with React. It's a good technology for MVP as it provides huge flexibility and allows scaling the app easily. We paired this technology with React Router to make the procedure of adding new features easier.
      Backend part: When it comes to Laravel, it remains our top choice for constructing APIs for web applications. With a variety of pre-built packages at our disposal, we can efficiently launch the backend without delay. By the way, in 2023 Laravel became the first popular software development framework — the wide developers community prefers it for its simplicity just like we do.
      Admin panel: To facilitate the uploading of new accommodations, we implemented an administrative dashboard utilizing Laravel Nova. This solution enabled UK Retreats to input essential details including photos, descriptions, locations, and tags seamlessly.
      Third-party integrations: Email campaigns are a key marketing tool for travel companies. We used the Mailgun API to enable travel portal administrators to send custom emails to customers. We also implemented the Google Geocoding API to create an interactive map.
      Landing page: We built the landing page with Next.js for its good SEO capabilities, essential for this type of digital product.
Travel software development: landing page design

The above-mentioned tech stack has been tested by Ronas IT team on numerous projects. We are sure it is a great choice for travel software development since these technologies are currently maintained by their developers and there are many code pieces that can be reused to speed up the software development. These technologies can be used for the development of software of any kind with many different features which proves their versatility. That's why we highly recommend this tech stack for building web travel software for other projects in this field.

Results. Our team has released an MVP of this travel software within 3 months. Although the app was built some time ago, it's functioning well and has already gained 10,000 downloads. The customer was so satisfied with us that gave us a 5-star rating on Clutch.

Our team can develop various types of travel software. While delivering our travel software development services, we will guide you from the idea to the release. We help outline the requirements, create project breakdowns by features, design an interface mockup, and provide a UI Kit for scaling the design. We also integrate your app with a booking engine to streamline in-app processes and select other suitable technologies.

Need a helping hand with custom software development? Don't hesitate to contact us!

What are the costs and development timeline for travel software development?

The cost and timeline of software development largely depend on the complexity of the application, the development approach you are going to choose, your hiring method, and many other factors. If you are going to develop your travel software with a third-party IT agency, the price depends on the agency's positioning, experience, and location. Here's the rate breakdown of travel software development companies provided by Clutch .

CountryCost per hour
United States of America$100 - $149
United Kingdom$150 - $199

Clutch also provides research on the average prices for web and mobile projects on their website. Here are the statistics:

Travel software development: Graphs reflecting travel app development pricing

Depending on the complexity of travel software development services can cost anywhere between $10,000-$200,000. Clutch also notes that app development usually takes 3 to 9 months to release. At Ronas IT, we usually strive to stick to the following time and price numbers for an MVP.

Urgent MVP developmentStandard MVP development
1 month3 months

All in all, the price and timeline can't be defined when the requirements and project specifics are not discussed. You can use our MVP calculator to estimate how much the implementation of your travel software idea can cost.

Wrapping up

The dynamic travel market presents abundant opportunities for entrepreneurs to tap into an ever-growing demand for travel apps that cater to the diverse needs of travelers. In today's fast-paced world, travelers require convenient solutions and personalized experiences to enhance different aspects of their journeys. From streamlining booking processes to providing on-the-go assistance, the possibilities for creating impactful travel applications are endless. In this environment, you can implement your boldest travel software ideas. To do that you may seek the help of a seasoned travel software development company, and we are here to help!

If you are searching for a custom software development service provider, contact us!

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