I'm going to be honest with you: I don't know if I have the guts to ever go on vacation and rely totally on last minute hotel service HotelTonight.
It's not that the service isn't good. It's just that I like knowing where I'm going to be. Notwithstanding the fact that the service is clearly popular, I'm not the only one who's hesitant. HotelTonight knows that's the case. That's why it's helping to give us nervous travelers a bit more peace of mind, with its just-introduced Look Ahead feature.
Look Ahead does exactly what it sounds like: it allows HotelTonight users to see rates, savings and availability of hotels in the area where they are going to be seven days before they will get there.
Adding this feature is "consistent with what we've done in the past," HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank told me in an interview. That includes allowing people to book more than one night and updating the app three hours earlier, 9 am instead of noon, to give them more time to book.
"We heard loud and clear from our customers that they wanted more information on what planning was going to look like in future," he said. "When they asked 'will you have rooms tomorrow?' we wanted to say more than just 'yes.' We wanted to give them certainty."
So now, for example, if someone living in the East Bay wanted to spend the weekend in San Francisco, or someone living on Long Island wanted to spend a few days in Manhattan, they can see that the rates will be good, and maybe even find special upcoming packages and promotions.
The idea is to still allow customers to be spontaneous, but to remove the fear and doubt that they may have had otherwise.
"People have this unfounded belief that the same day there are times when there are no more rooms available," said Shank. "Maybe it has come from people being conditioned to believe that certain cities will sell out and there wont be rooms. We want this feature to remove that voice from the back of their mind."
One problem that might arise, of course, is that conditions change, and rates and availability may not stay the same. But Shank is confident that they won't be that much of a difference.
"We are always monitoring, but when we put a prediction out there it's pretty much locked in," he said. "We've doing this for quite some time and it has been working well for our own uses so now we're going to put it out there for others."
Discounts for booking through HotelTonight can be up to 70% off, though it also depends greatly on the particular city and what is going on in the city on the day of the booking. At the same time, the service allows hotels to book up rooms that otherwise would have been empty and to gain exposure "with a highly desirable customer demographic," said Shank.
Ultimately, the company believes that giving more information to people will lead to a benefit for both the customer and the hotel.
"By offering destination-specific promotions, packages and events, the feature is meant to inspire more people to book last-minute and could draw in new guests who might not otherwise have booked a hotel that day," Shank said. "Look Ahead is yet another way that HotelTonight's real-time marketplace provides value for hotels."
The feature is currently available in HotelTonight's nine more popular cities: New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego and Dallas with more cities rolling out with in the next few weeks.
The feature will initially launch on iPhone and roll out to iPad and Android devices soon.
Founded in 2011, HotelTonight has raised more than $80 million from Battery Ventures, US Venture Partners, Accel Partners, First Round Capital, and others. Most recently, the company raised a $45 million Series D round in September. The company has partnered with over 10,000 hotels in 17 countries and 250 destinations. To date, the app has been downloaded over nine million times.