How to Create a Travel App in 2023: Trends, Ideas, Features, Costs
A travel app is software designed to help you arrange a journey from A to Z. This kind of app lets you find and book a place to stay, arrange transportation, choose a restaurant, and much more.
Travel applications are pretty popular. The Booking.com app alone generated 63 million downloads last year.
According to forecasts, travel apps will reach 0.54 billion US dollars in revenue in 2026 (a two-fold increase from 2021). As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, once borders were opened back up, the number of travelers increased almost immediately, and this trend remains.
These stats make it clear - the travel mobile app market is growing.
Thus, the question arises- how does one create a travel app successfully?
In this article, we'll discuss:
- The best travel apps for iOS and Android in 2022
- Keys statistics and travel market analysis
- Tips for how to build a travel app in terms of functionality
- Tech stack for travel mobile app development
Let’s get started by examining the current state of the travel industry.
Travel App Market Explained
In the first step of the process exploring how to make a travel app, you have to run a market and business analysis. Good news - we have done this for you.
Here are some key stats on travel apps:
The market for travel apps is vast and variable, and consumer tastes change constantly.
In 2021, downloads of the travel booking app Hopper increased dramatically, rising by 197% compared to 2019.
At the same time, downloads of KAYAK, Hotel Tonight, Skyscanner, and Trivago dropped in 2021 compared to 2019.
This is a welcoming sign for newcomers - although the competition is tight, the way forward for new travel apps is open.
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- As of 2022, the most downloaded travel apps are Booking.com (63 million downloads), Airbnb (44 million), Hopper (19 million), and Expedia (14 million). TripAdvisor is the last of the top ten most popular apps, having generated 9.7 million downloads in 2021.
- The revenue of Booking Holdings grew from $1.41 billion in 2007 to 15.7 billion in 2019. After a drop in 2020, the revenue grew again from 6.8 billion in 2020 to 10.96 billion in 2021.
- 44% of users would like mobile applications to provide notifications and alerts to increase travel safety after 2021.
- In the travel market, by 2026, 73% of total revenue will be generated through online sales.
- As the competition grows, more customers expect a personalized experience when making a booking.
- According to a Tripadvisor report, 59% of travelers make a booking between one and three months in advance.
6 Challenges You Can Solve With Travel App Development
Aldous Huxley, an English novelist and critic, once said that traveling is a vice "demanding its victim’s time, money, energy, and the sacrifice of comfort.”
That was before travel services wiped away all the pains, letting us enjoy the gains. As an ardent traveler and writer, Huxley would surely build a travel blogging app for himself if he could have lived in our time.
So, let’s review the key problems that travel application development can solve:
1. Improve Travel Experience
When deciding how to create a travel app, remember that an app should be a one-stop resource for trip planning.
With a few swipes and taps, a traveler can build itineraries, find the best offers, and book hotels, tickets, cruises, and even arrange customized events.
As well, travel applications should provide insurance and advisories and may act as a traveler's advocate in cases where consumer rights may be violated.
2. Automate Tasks
Most companies specializing in travel mobile app development now focus on automation.
A travel app can help you automatically build your travel itinerary by setting schedules and sending alerts and reminders. TripIt, for example, creates a visual plan of your future travel and makes automatic changes if a hotel or airline cancels your booking.
3. Improve Customer Service
Since customer service is the first thing angry users complain about, today’s mobile travel app development companies compete over the speed and quality
of services that they provide to customers. Technically, this offers to reach multiple communication channels for clients to solve their issues 24/7.
People who know how to create a travel app successfully will invest a lot into excellent customer support services.
4. Organize your team of travel suppliers
Travel app development today provides a sustainably positive experience, turning an app into a one-stop resource for travel planning. The app should organize services providing you with food, shelter, transportation, and entertainment.
5. Remote Destination Exploration
Apps like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and OpenRice show you information on the most famous sights of a particular locale of interest. Based on customer reviews and listings, you can explore your destination virtually.
6. Incentives & Offers
Most apps offer loyalty programs to returning customers. First-time users also get their own perks. Companies like Booking.com work with hosts to provide special prices for reservations made through their app. Best-price alerts and last-minute deals make customers more loyal.
We recommend not overlooking this benefit when you build your travel app.
11+ Travel Mobile App Types & Ideas
The next step in our query of how to create a travel app will be choosing a type.
You can make an all-in-one app or focus on a specific feature. Based on the main functionality, travel apps are divided into several types.
1. Flight Booking
Flight booking apps let you get real-time flight data, book tickets, and buy goods in duty-free stores.
Custom flight booking app development allows you to create apps with fresh features. Some apps let users buy plane tickets at the lowest prices using price prediction algorithms.
Examples: Hopper, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, Momondo
2. Niche Experience Travel App
These apps cater to users with specific demands. Perhaps the best illustration is Good Guide, a local guide app that allows users to find small vegan restaurants abroad, or HopStop, which selects the best route for travelers preferring to go most of the way on foot.
Niche experience mobile travel apps are perfect for the newbies in the market. Start with this idea if you are unsure how to make a travel app that will generate a return on investment in the short term.
Examples: GoodGuide, EatWith, Expedia App (for green hotels), HopStop, Animal Free app, Locavore
3. Accommodation Booking
With these applications, users can view available rooms and reviews, then select and book a place to stay in a similar way to the marketplace platforms.
To succeed in this domain, consider mobile travel app development for specific locales.
Examples: Booking.com, Expedia, Marriott
4. Transport App
The primary purpose of this app type is to provide travelers with different transportation options. This includes rental cars, transferring bookings, route building, and ride-sharing.
As an idea, think about travel application development for green rideshare. You can check more information about creating ride-hailing apps inside our guide: How to make an app like Uber.
Examples: Lyft, Uber, Zipcar, Transit, Getaround, Feedback2Go, and Next Station.
5. Travel Guides
Mobile travel guides tell you what to see in selected destinations. Aside from the information regarding the sights to visit, you get real-time updates on upcoming events or, like in the case with Cool Cousin, you can appoint a person (your personal "cool cousin") who will volunteer to introduce you to a city's most hidden attractions.
Connecting people from different parts of the world is an excellent idea if you are unsure how to create a travel app that will stand out.
Examples: Triposo (offline access), Tripadvisor
6. Travel Planning Apps
Apps should be designed to plan trips, build itineraries, create necessary lists, predict the weather, and much more. For example, the travel organizer app Kayak measures your luggage with the help of a phone camera in order to inform you of potential fees.
Yet, the best trip planning app in 2022 is Sygic Travel. This app provides an itinerary for each day of your trip with the most minor details, like the distance between attractions, thought out.
Examples: TripIt, Couchsurfing, Kayak, Packing Pro, Sygic Travel
7. Navigation Apps
Aside from showing you routes and location, navigation apps can also focus on different user needs. For example, BackCountry Navigator is the best trip app for off-road travel, Polaris GPS Navigation is intended for hikers, and HERE WeGo has great customization features.
Navigation travel app development will need integrations with third-party services and a lot of personal research on the area of interest.
Examples: Google Maps, Maze, MapFactor, MAPS.ME, Polaris GPS Navigation, BackCountry Navigator, HERE WeGo.
8. Deal Alert Apps
Some travel deal apps like Hopper use unique algorithms to parse a historical database of prices, discounts, peak periods, and more, in order to predict the best prices and alert you when a specific period is close.
Others, like Google Flights, parse through hundreds of travel websites to pick up last-minute deals that have already gone live. HotelTonight and One:Night cater to spontaneous travelers by listing same-day offers.
Mobile travel app development in this domain will require access to a database of flights and hotels and the development of intelligent algorithms to detect trends.
Examples: Hopper, HotelTonight, One:Night, Google Flights, LateRooms
9. Virtual Tours
VR services have already been developed for tourist sites like Patagonia, Greek Olympia, and the Egyptian pyramids, allowing users to go on virtual tours. Now, travel companies are jumping on the VR bandwagon to improve their tourism apps.
This is an excellent solution if you are unsure how to build a travel app to win users’ trust. People might appreciate being able to see a place before their trip.
Examples: Qantas, British Airways, Marriott
10. Travel Security Apps
Travel security apps make users feel safer while traveling by providing security checklists, emergency contact numbers, and information on where to find a local embassy or consulate.
Examples: Sitata Travel Safe, NordVPN, bSafe
So, when deciding how to create a travel app, you could start by establishing your motives and selecting a travel application type.
Note: Travel app development starts with identifying your future customers’ pains and possessing a desire to fix them. The following section describes how the top market players began their businesses out of frustration with irrelevant services and where they are now.
How to Create a Travel App: More Ideas
Here are several ideas to consider when thinking about how to make a travel app. Each idea will work great inside any travel application.
- Audio Tour Mobile App
Having an audio tour is like having a guide in your pocket. Many locales already have recorded tours about their sights; so, all you need to do is download existing audio tours and enable GPS functionality so that the user can find one that is relevant.
- Kid-Friendly Place Finder App
Some hotels, cafes, restaurants, and other locations have been established as kid-friendly zones. All you need is to implement this functionality in travel application development and parse information about these services in order to build a list.
- Gift & Souvenir Guide App
Bringing souvenirs back home is a must. However, finding them can be a fuss. Users will be grateful for information about the closest shops, prices, and tips on what exotic products may be available included in your travel app.
Top Travel Market Players
When Dutch student Geert-Jan Bruinsma created the website Bookings.nl in 1996, he wasn’t thinking of worldwide fame or how to create a travel app that would generate millions of downloads. He just aimed to simplify the hotel search for guys like him.
Here is some information on the top players in the travel market and how they got started.
Then: The service started back in the 1990s with a simple search website. Right away, the site had some issues. In 2002, the company holders wanted to sell Booking to Expedia, but several successful integrations later on saved the company.
Now: The company has access to 28 million listings worldwide and provides services in 43 languages. Their overall net income surpassed 1.17 billion U.S. dollars in 2021.
Travel App: They started with travel app development for iOS in 2012. The travel app for Android was released the following year. Now, it is one of the most downloaded travel apps out there (63 million downloads last year).
Then: In 2008, Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia founded AirBedandBreakfast.com (acronym: Airbnb). They initially offered an air mattress in their apartment to travelers who didn't have money for a hotel. Their idea collected $20,000 as an initial investment.
Now: Airbnb is the most successful company by market capitalization. Last year, Airbnb reached $104.25 billion and surpassed its closest rival, Booking.com, with a market capitalization of $98.5 billion.
Travel App: The Airbnb travel application is among the market leaders by downloads (44 million).
Then: New Hampshire programmer Casey Felton had issues with high hotel prices in Iceland. To find a free place to stay while there, he hacked a local university website and e-mailed over a thousand students asking for help. He received over 50 answers and decided to turn this success into service upon returning home.
Now: Couchsurfing is a company with over 14 million hosts and travelers in 200,000 cities worldwide and is most famous as a free resource for social travel.
Travel App: The Couchsurfing app for iOS and Android started in 2012. Their travel mobile app development project was based on volunteer offers. In 2016, they introduced their famous "hangout" feature, allowing fellow travelers to meet with each other and locals.
Then: The company started in 2000 as an online travel guide. The founder aimed to substitute tons of paper guides with a website. After the site invited visitors to leave reviews, the website quickly became a social media network for travelers.
Now: TripAdvisor has a website and travel application that features 859 million reviews for 8.6 million establishments worldwide. They provide services in 49 markets and 28 languages.
Travel App: TripAdvisor can teach you how to build a travel app with millions of downloads considering their app is one of the world's ten most downloaded apps.
Then: The idea evolved as Gareth Williams (a founder) faced problems finding cheap flights to ski resorts. Thus, he started a website with Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes to help people find and book flights online.
Now: Skyscanner is one of the world’s largest search engines and travel agencies, peaking at over 311 million British pounds in revenue in 2019. The website is available in over 30 languages and is used by 100 million people monthly.
Travel App: Shortly after its launch, the Skyscanner flight ticket booking app reached a milestone of 10 million downloads. Now they have 50+ million downloads on Google Play alone.
Skyscanner can teach you how to create a travel app that is trusted; during the pandemic lockdowns, Skyscanner was among the three most-mentioned companies on Twitter as a safe travel provider.
Then: TripIt was founded in San Francisco in 2006 by Gregg Brockway, Scott Hintz, and Andy Denmark.
Now: The TripIt app and website are some of the most visited worldwide and recommended by NYT, Forbes, and Wall Street Journal.
Travel App: The app is famous for a smart algorithm used for building travel itineraries and may be exemplary for other travel app development projects. The app has more than 20 million users and was mentioned as one of the best travel apps by Forbes.
These companies can teach us a lot about how to create a travel app. We want to stress that every success story started with a negative experience as a traveler, whether it was a lack of information on tourist sites, lengthy booking procedures, or trouble finding flights.
How to Create a Travel App: Functionality
In this section, we offer lists of basic and advanced functionality to pay attention to during travel mobile app development. You have to find and establish killer features in order to stand out from the crowd.
Must-Have Features for Travel App Development
This is a set of basic travel app features included in software development services.
- User Onboarding (Signup/Login)
What people hate about apps is a fussy sign-in. Make sure to cut this step down to a few simple actions. Allow for multiple options; let users register via e-mail, with a Google account, or through social media.
- Search System
When considering how to create a travel app with great functionality, think about search suggestions, auto-corrections, and prompts. The next step is filtering, which must be thought out, but should not involve over-spamming.
Listings should include clear photos, concise descriptions, availability, and prices with a user-friendly design. To build listings, you need to parse info from tourist sites. Pay attention to this factor during the travel application development process.
- User Profile
Pay attention to this feature to get a clear idea of how to make a travel app successfully. A profile is a place where a user can save favorites, view their booking history, and access incentives and offers.
- Chat (Basic)
Basic chat functionality is one of the travel app requirements. A chat feature will allow users in crisis to promptly get responses, solutions, and alternatives.
The booking feature comes first to mind when thinking about how to create a travel app. However, make sure the process is fluid. Your travel app developer may build a booking API and use existing solutions like DSV Booking API or Conferma Booking API.
- Reviews & Ratings
Travelers rely on ratings to help them make good choices and avoid negative options. There are numerous readymade solutions like SpeedyBooker Rates API to use in travel app development.
Since many people travel independently, map integration is a must.
If you don’t know how to create a location-based app with map integrations, check out Google Maps API or find a local alternative. Examples include Gothere Maps API for Singapore or eContent.Maps API for Germany and Austria.
Most successful apps like Expedia support multiple languages, as this reaches a broader audience. Think about enabling a multilingual interface on your app. This will need some input like manual translation during the travel mobile app development project.
Information about hot price alerts, availability, canceled flights, as well as booking reminders is a must-have feature for an app.
Check out APIs that enable this feature like Knock Notifications API, WHATWG Notifications API, Mozilla Notifications API, etc.
Travel App Development: Advanced Features
People who know how to create a travel app that overcomes user expectations compete by building advanced features.
Here are several ideas for you to consider:
- Transportation Services
Although transportation services usually have a separate solution like trip sharing apps (Uber and Lyft), having everything in one place is not necessarily bad.
Consider APIs like Uber Riders API to add a rideshare functionality or UberRUSH API for transportation.
- Booking Services
Apart from hotels and tickets, let users book services like restaurants, rideshare, concert tickets, etc. This is possible with Conferma Booking API.
- Travel Journal
An online travel journal is an excellent feature for a travel blogging app and should organize pictures, videos, audio, and notes into a single directory.
HipGeo API is an API that can help you enable this functionality.
- Navigation Services
Navigation is a must for travel apps, considering about 85% of travelers use this feature. Consider integration with Route You API, The Airport Guide API, or AND GeoAccess API.
- Trip Reviews or Travel Recommendations
One of the best tourist guide apps, Tripadvisor, started its service based on reviews. Most of all, customers value non-tourist spots or areas recommended by locals. Use Travel Recommendations API or Strands Social Recommender API to enable this possibility.
However, be careful.
Use case: Tripadvisor faced legal issues after their Chinese website hosted comments from a user who claimed to have visited over 50 restaurants in Paris while also reviewing 50 hotels in other countries within the span of a month.
Another scandal broke as British journalist Oobah Butler created a fake account for The Shed at Dulwich restaurant that never existed in reality. Thanks to fake reviews, the restaurant became the top-rated venue in London on TripAdvisor in 2017, beating 18,149 competitors.
This teaches us a vital thing: It is not enough to know how to create a travel app. You should also know how to protect the app from pranks and fraud.
- Translation Functionality
Help users overcome language barriers with several prompts. Include some phrasebooks and online translations for destination countries.
Consider Pairaphrase Translation API or Webit Translator API. The latter gives access to a hybrid neural machine working with over 100 languages.
- Weather Forecasts
Weather forecasting is one of the most important factors to consider. Having a weather prompt in-app is handy. Enable this feature with World Weather Online Ski Weather API, Weather2 API, or Weather Unlocked Local Weather API.
- 3D Virtual Tours
3D virtual tours are already used in some apps. Google Earth VR allows users to virtually travel to any part of the world and view the locale. However, it is not a tourist app.
The first travel companies to offer virtual tours of the properties are Qantas, British Airways, and Marriott. To enable this feature, you’ll need to process large libraries of pictures and videos during travel app development.
- Fare Price Prediction & Alerts
Travel apps like Hopper can teach us a lot about how to create a travel app with price prediction.
These apps use a massive database of airline prices, historical trends, and predictive forecasting algorithms. To build this feature, you'll need real-time data on flights, which you can get from Cleartrip Flights API or Travel Fusion Flight API.
For alerts, you’ll need integrations with OneSignal Push Notifications API or Aimtell Push API.
- Real-time Flight Updates & Self-Service
Technically, this travel app feature is similar to price drop alerts. You may get real-time flight updates from the same APIs. As well, consider QPX Express API as an option.
Personalization is an answer for those asking how to create a travel app that will cultivate loyalty.
Companies approach personalization differently. Options include birthday gifts, loyalty programs, or trip suggestions. A solution like Personalizer API customizes content based on user behavior and demographics.
Analytics give real-time visibility into your company's lifecycle. Adobe Analytics API will help you implement this feature.
Now, let's review the tech stack you will need when creating a travel app.
Tech Stack & Integrations for Mobile Travel App Development
You already have an idea of the API integrations you may need to implement the features you want. Here’s the basic tech stack you might need to create a travel app:
|Testing||Jira, Crashlytics, GitLab, Confluence||Jira, Crashlytics, GitLab, Confluence||Jira, Crashlytics, GitLab, Confluence|
|Integrations||Facebook, Twitter, Facebook Sign-in, Google Sign-in, Maps, etc.||Facebook, Twitter, Facebook Sign-in, Google Sign-in, Maps, etc.||Facebook, Twitter, Facebook Sign-in, Google Sign-in, Maps, etc.|
|Release||Amazon Web Services, Google Play, App Store, Microsoft Apps||Amazon Web Services, Google Play, App Store, Microsoft Apps||Amazon Web Services, Google Play, App Store, Microsoft Apps|
The first thing to do is to find a team that knows how to create a travel app for different platforms (iOS, Android, Windows) and can build a travel website if needed.
The good news is that there are numerous integrations to be used in travel application development. However, if you have an idea for functionality that barely even exists, you'll have to pay for additional requirements.
So, this is an answer for how to create a travel app technically. Each technology has its own cost. Further, we review the main drivers of travel app development costs.
How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Travel App
To prepare a travel app business plan, you need to have a clear idea of the forthcoming costs.
The budget will depend on the majority and complexity of features you want to include and the rates of your software development company.
A simple app with basic features will take about 440 working hours of development. Since the hourly rates for app development vary (from $100 an hour in the United States to $40-50 in Eastern Europe), the price will depend significantly on where you find a travel app development company.
If you hire travel app developers and opt for IT staff augmentation in a country with moderate development prices (in Ukraine, the average rate is $40 per hour), a travel app with minimum functionality will cost about $18,000 within 2 months.
As for a more complex app version with differentiating and innovative features, the app development cost starts at $60,000 and may increase to $300,000+ for one platform (web, iOS, Android). The timeline to create such a travel app can take from 6 to 9+ months.
So by now, you should know how to create a travel app in terms of the tech stack and cost. Now it’s time to learn how travel apps make money.
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How to Make Money from Your Travel App
There are numerous ways to make your travel app profitable. They include charges for hosting, nominal fees for stays, registration fees, advertising and sponsorship, affiliate partnerships, etc.
- Bookings & Reservations
Every company providing a listing to an app pays fees for successful deals. For example, Skyscanner generated most of their revenue from flight commissions, recording the highest amount of 251.5 million British pounds in 2019.
- Sponsored Places
Some apps allow publishers to pay for their listings to be placed at the top of search results or be featured in recommendations. This model is similar to Google AdWords.
This idea is viable if you are starting a tourist guide app project.
- Coupons & Vouchers
Coupons and vouchers may be a great attraction for customers. However, to enable this option, you should be a bulk buyer of hotel rooms, like Expedia, or provide coupons at your own cost. It wouldn’t necessarily be excessive for you to include coupon functionality when starting travel application development.
- In-App Advertising
Predict the possibility of in-app advertising as you start to consider how to create a travel app.
You may take money from listing providers for successful deals or go for pay-per-click advertising. According to Tripadvisor's annual report, in 2019, the company generated 33% of its profit from Booking and Expedia for PPC ads.
- Push Notifications
Although you can't make money with push notifications per se, this feature drives user attention to hot deals and makes them more likely to make a booking.
- Premium Version
If you don’t know how to make a travel app that profits from premium features, learn from TripIt. They promise to speed you through the airport security line if you use their Pro app. If you don’t have a similar superpower, follow PackPoint and remove ads in the paid version.
- Sponsored App
Consider attracting sponsors if you have an idea for an app with social value.
Couchsurfing can teach you how to create a travel app based on donations and volunteer work. They started as a charge-free service and existed mostly off of sponsor money by 2020, and volunteers even developed their website.
However, they had to shift to a fee-based plan after the crisis caused by Covid lockdowns.
- In-App Purchases
Allow users to buy travel-related products or offer them additional services like offline access to maps, premium car rentals, etc.
Note: It is essential to decide on a monetization model before you start developing a travel app business plan.
Final Takeaways on Travel App Development
This is the final step of our query on how to create a travel app.
- The travel app market is on the rise and has favorites too, but it's not a monolith. New apps are gaining popularity. There is also a trend to offer niche apps focusing on specific content. This means you have all the chances for success.
- Decide on app monetization models right as you start thinking about how to create a travel app. This will influence the tech stack, integrations, and price.
- Make sure you find and hire a dedicated development team or reliable mobile travel app development company with a lot of experience in application development to make sure you stick with the latest design and technology trends.
We hope, by this time, you have an idea for developing a travel app with the necessary functionality. You should also have a vision of how to make money with your app. Your next step is personal consultation.
If you have an idea for a travel app but no clear image of how to bring your vision to life, contact MSDev for a free consultation and support.
Our team will offer you a friendly discussion and free estimate of the future project’s cost and timeline.
Contact us now
If you have an idea for a travel app but no clear image of how to bring your vision to life, contact MSDev for a free consultation and support.
Our team will offer you a friendly discussion and free estimate of the future project’s cost and timeline.