HotelTonight’s new feature rewards decisiveness and cures “FOBO”

Just book it.
Just book it.
Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau
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There’s a particular form of “analysis paralysis” that frequent travelers will recognize—the indecisive hours spent comparing the prices, amenities, and locations of different hotels. Now, there’s a cure: HotelTonight’s new feature promises a great deal on your ideal hotel—but you have only 15 minutes to pull the trigger.

The mobile-only booking app—which launched in 2011 and was originally focused on ultra last-minute bookings—is launching what it calls the travel industry’s first “ephemeral deal.” Called the Daily Drop, it works like this: A user enters the dates and location they’d like to book for. Each day, they have the option to unlock a special deal that’s priced at least 30% lower than they will find anywhere else, at a property that is chosen based on the user’s past hotel preferences and history within the app. The catch? The deal only lasts for 15 minutes. If the user passes on that offer, they have to wait until the next day to unlock a new deal.

HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank says the app’s mobile-optimized, highly-curated offering—in addition to only partnering with vetted hotels, the app is designed to learn what the user likes over time—is one that’s perfectly suited for hotel geeks who want to make sure their experience and deal is top notch. The app includes hotels in 1,700 cities across 35 countries.

While it’s clear why the Daily Drop might appeal to a user, what’s in it for the hotel, you ask? The answer is a high quality guest—which Shank says is code word for “millennial.”

“Hotels are obsessed with getting this kind of traveler,” Shank said, noting that the bulk of HotelTonight’s 29 million downloads are on the phones of millennials. “These types of customers are experience-driven, not price-driven. They really like the amenities—the bar, the rooftop, the pool—and they are great customers. And of course they are very social media-adept. They provide free marketing in a sense.”

Of course, all these qualities also make millennial travelers particularly susceptible to that “analysis paralysis.” If you want both a great deal and a stylish hotel, making a decision can be overwhelming. And in a world where there are more online marketplaces than ever for booking travel, a new version of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has emerged: Fear of Better Options.

For FOBO sufferers, there’s some relief in being forced to make a choice—unlike, say, a dating app, where there are seemingly limitless options to swipe through. HotelTonight’s feature launches this week, and can be used to book rooms up to 100 days in advance. Your next hotel stay is just one decisive swipe away.

Update: This post was updated and clarified based on new information from HotelTonight regarding user downloads and the percentage of the Daily Drop discount.