How to Create a Travel App: Travel App Development

9 minutes

Being in the travel business, or in any business really, there is a constant need for some kind of change based on the realities of today. For travel businesses, it is not a new thing – it has become an essential. So, going mobile it is not something that can surprise your customers it is what they expect from you. And if customers expect something, they should get it.

Benefits of a travel app

Needless to say, most businesses today are going mobile, but why exactly should the travel industry follow suit? Here are some key benefits that come with a mobile application:

  • Instantaneity. Mobile travel apps give people the opportunity to instantly access the available information without coming to the agencies or talking on the phone and explaining what it is that they want. Businesswise, automation of bookings, invoicing, billing, etc leads to saving time and efforts.
  • Excellent maintenance. Mobile technology lets businesses manage and maintain all the content on the mobile application and keep a track and record of clients’ interests and bookings in the most convenient way.
  • One-stop solution. Travel planning becomes easier and faster as everything you need is provided to you in an app. Your clients can book tickets, hotels, sightseeing, rent cars, and even do travel-related shopping.
  • Customization. With today’s advanced technologies, people are used to everything being customized for their needs and travel apps are no exception. Customization can be expressed in different tour packages for different purposes like corporate trips, fun, or a family holiday. Mobile apps can be designed to meet the needs of different groups within your target audience.
  • Convenient marketing tool. Mobile apps give you an amazing opportunity to interact with your audience and find out what they want from your services. Just enhance your application with social media buttons and you are up-to-date with your customer’s lifestyle and habits.
  • Brand recognition. By creating a mobile app for your travel business you give clients an opportunity to access your service while being on the go, at any time and in any place. This can increase brand recognition.

Features of travel applications

Travel app development

There are tons of different travel apps out there today with all kind of interesting features. Let’s say that an app is a cookie jar, then features are the cookies of different flavors, which makes an app tastier and more appealing to users. Below you’ll find a list of most important and convenient features for a travel application.


Navigation and maps are essential for a travel app. Statistically, 52% of all mobile app users adopt one or other navigation app. Among the tourists, this benchmark jumps to 85%. So, a map is a base of your application, but if you want clients to use a map in your app and not to switch to a different navigation app, the travel map apps have to work offline. And the way to do it is to have a geolocation feature. It is no secret that, it will affect the cost of developing a travel app, but users need this feature even in an MVP and beta-version.

Here are a few useful tools that your travel application development company might use: Google Maps SDK for iOS and Android provides the app with the map itself; Google Places and Facebook Places APIs give access to an enormous database of services and sightseeing, etc.

Booking/buying services

A travel app is nothing without a booking or buying feature. Users expect a travel app to provide them with an ability to book hotels, restaurants, tickets, and sightseeing tours. Do not forget about the transportation within the trip. Cabs are usually one of the most important parts of a trip. Whether you need a transfer from an airport to a hotel or to a certain tourist area. So a cab-booking service is a must-have.

This way app gives its users everything they might need for a trip with a few quick clicks. Among the apps for international travel are very popular booking services for tickets and accommodation. A user can find the best deals and set up notifications for price changes.

Travel planner

If you are going for a travel mobile app development, do it the right way! All the described tourism app features above can be used in a single app, but they have to be presented in a structured and lean way. Give your users an opportunity to view their trip from start to finish, from the flight to arriving at a hotel, exploring sights and going home. So users could have an opportunity to see the whole picture of their trips.

Reviews and recommendations

Do consider implementing a customer feedback, review and rating block into your travel mobile app. People want to be able to review places and share their experiences with others.

It can become a great foundation for building a trustworthy relationship and show that you care about your users and their travel experiences. Also, as usual, customer feedback gives you everything you need to know about the ways to improve a travel app.

Weather forecasting

Weather conditions always have a massive effect on the traveling plans. So a weather feature in an app is a smart solution. A real-time climate forecast can let users book their trips without concern about the weather conditions or the need to leave your app for a different one to check the forecast.

Currency converter

When developing a travel mobile app or any app at all, you need to think from a user’s point of view. When traveling to a different country people want to know the currency exchange rates, and as always, we can’t let them leave your app, so a currency converter feature is quite important.


In the not so distant past, people traveled with vocabularies and phrasebooks, so they could understand the language around them. Now, the time has changed and mobile apps are here to give a hand. But, do not just implement a regular translator, try to think bigger and keep up with modern technologies. You can use augmented reality, so users could translate everything around them in a second.

Payment gateways

Allowing a user to make mobile payments within your app is really important. To do that, you can integrate fast, easy and trusted payment methods like Paypal, Paytm, Google Wallet, Apple Pay. It will help to decrease the number of abandoned transactions and engage customers who prefer to make the payments in their native language that leads to a good user experience.

Travel app business model canvas

There is a great variety of travel mobile apps with different business models. Let’s map a white label travel app on a business model canvas.

Travel app business model

Travel app monetization

You might be wondering: how to monetize a travel app? Back in the early days, travel apps like Expedia and Priceline charged airlines a commission for offering tickets on their platforms. Later, when airlines started selling tickets directly from their own websites, they dragged their customers back and this revenue stream dried out. Most revenue comes from selling hotel reservations.

Today travel app monetization can be performed in three different ways: the agency model, the merchant model, and the advertising model.

Agency business model

So, here’s how the agency business model works. An OTA (Online Travel Agency) plays the part of a middleman between customers and industry operators, very much like in a multi-sided platform business pattern. It makes a commission on every transaction.

This is the way Expedia operates. Its commission rates range from 20 to 25 percent. Even though the price is high to pay, being shown on Expedia pages can increase some hotel’s occupancy. But going for this model can be fairly risky for a relatively new app. It’s probably better to start with a smaller commission, gain trust first, and only then consider going the same path as Expedia. Priceline sells hotel reservations primarily according to the agency model.

Merchant business model

The merchant business model, basically, makes an online travel agency a merchant of record. People book and pay for the services like hotel rooms and flight right via the agency’s own mobile app. For this model to work, online agencies need to buy up quite a large number of hotel rooms at a wholesale rate. Then these rooms get marketed to users at the agency’s rate.

Expedia combines agency and merchant models but mostly relies on the latter one, which offers higher margins.

Advertising business model

The third model for the travel app monetization is advertising. For example, Priceline earns 0.3 percent of its revenue from advertising fees, which is a pretty small amount. On the other hand, TripAdvisor is driven by advertising.

Travel applications like Kayak and Hipmunk earn their revenue on flights and hotels by charging cost-per-click to OTA and supplier websites. So, they get paid to redirect customers to airline and hotel websites.

This model is the most affordable, so it can be a great match for a small travel agent who wants to make a travel app.

Also, there are a few additional ways to monetize travel apps, like in-built purchases and subscriptions. With in-built purchases, you can sell premium features or even your own traveling merchandise. Make your users subscribe and get invaluable traveling insights, tips, and life hacks via your app.

Find out more about different kinds of mobile app pricing models: How to Choose the Best Pricing Model for Your Mobile App – Tactics and Strategy


To sum up, travel apps are becoming an essential for most of the tourists and travelers. If, you want to be closer to your target audience and stay relevant with technologies, going mobile is a good decision.

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