A Complete Travel App Development Guide

How to build a travel app? What are the key travel application development tips? How to find great travel app developers? If you are asking any of these questions you have come to the right place. In this detailed guide to travel mobile app design you will learn everything you need to know to build travel app successfully.

The travel & hospitality industry is a massive field of opportunities and wealth. Its annual economic impact is approximately 6.5 trillion dollars, according to Statista. The global international tourism revenue is estimated at 1.34 trillion dollars. International travelers are affluent customers – after all, an individual must have sufficient income to afford traveling abroad.

Tourists are one of the most affluent and attractive customer segments as their spending levels are high. For example, in the US alone, international travelers spent over 155 billion dollars in 2017. By 2020, it is expected to grow to over 200 billion. To put it short, there is a lot of money in the industry.

Why Travel Mobile App Development Is a Big Business Opportunity

Why Travel Mobile App Development Is a Big Business Opportunity

But what does it have to do with mobile applications? – you might ask. This has everything to do with mobile apps. Did you know that 85% of travelers use mobile devices to book travel activities?

These statistics say it all – mobile devices are the new revenue-generating medium in the travel industry. Those market players who manage to successfully exploit this opportunity will stay competitive and survive. We’re not so sure about the fate of those who don’t though.

Smartphones – that’s where travelers’ attention is. And if you want to catch their attention your brand must be present on mobile devices i.e. mobile applications. Travelers use these apps to plan their trips, book hotels, buy airplane tickets and many other things which generate revenue, not mentioning the advertising which they see.

Such companies as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Airbnb, and others are perfect examples of how travel apps can be turned into powerful revenue sources. These and many other real-world examples show that it is possible to build a profitable and popular travel app if done diligently and correctly.

How to Make a Travel App: 7 Must-Have Features

It’s for this reason that we have written this guide – to explain in detail how to successfully build such an application. And the first thing which comes to mind when thinking about travel app development are the must-have features. Here are the main features which a perfect travel app should have:

  1. Map integration & navigation
  2. Trip planning
  3. Booking & reservation
  4. Reviews & recommendation
  5. Transportation
  6. Weather forecasting
  7. Emergency services

We will describe each of these features in detail below.

How to Make a Travel App: 7 Must-Have Features

Map Integration & Navigation

Travelling and geography are two inseparable things. Maps are a must-have-feature for all travel & hospitality applications. Users should have access to detailed maps which are easy to use, understand and navigate with. The maps must provide as much relevant and detailed information as necessary.

There exist many geolocation solutions which are suitable for this goal. Of course, there is the well-known Google Maps API but it’s not the only one . The alternatives worth mentioning are OpenLayers, TomTom, Mapbox, HERE, Mapfit.

These options are not going to provide you with all the data you need, however. Most likely a smart combination of different APIs is going to be necessary. For example, there is Hotels API by Google. It provides detailed information about available hotels in the selected region. What technology stack will be necessary in your case will depend on the technical peculiarities of the geolocation, map integration and navigation functionality of your app.

Trip Planning

One of the main reasons why people use travel apps is to plan their trips. Apps which offer such functions allow picking different destinations, choosing transportation to get to those destinations, booking hotels, etc.

This function must be integrated with all the other features such as maps and the other ones which will be described below. Some of the most popular trip planning apps include Google Trips, TripCase, TripHobo, and Roadtrippers.

Booking & Reservation

Travel apps can be used to directly book tickets, hotels, tours and many other travel-related products and services. As such, travel applications have become sort of marketplaces for tourists. Implementing this functionality would require a stack of various technologies and APIs such as Arzoo, Booking, Orbitz. These are the most popular hotel booking APIs.

As for airplane tickets, Skyscanner, Google Flights, SmartFlyer are the best options. It is again worth mentioning that it’s not enough to simply add the major features. Each of them has to be correctly configured and integrated with the rest. For example, booking with maps, maps with trip planning and so forth.

Reviews & Recommendation

Regardless of whether you are building a mobile app for travel agency or a travel aggregator the one must-have feature for any travel app is providing users with honest reviews and recommendations. Users should have the ability to leave reviews about restaurants, cafes, hotels, and other places.

It’s also a good idea to use some third-party service for loading real reviews. Besides that, an algorithm should be developed which will provide users with relevant recommendations based on their preferences.


Once a traveler arrives to his or her desired destination finding convenient transportation means is crucial. For this reason, it is vital to provide users with detailed and up-to-date information about available transportation means, schedule, pricing, and other important details. Being able to book taxis, train tickets, etc. would be a big plus. Programmable Web has a long list of transportation APIs which you can take a look at.

Weather Forecasting

An important factor in a traveler’s decision-making process is the weather. For this reason, users will appreciate if you provide them with accurate weather forecasts. There exist numerous decent APIs for this purpose. The most notable ones include Forecast.io, AccuWeather, OpenWeatherMap, YahooWeather.

Emergency Services

When a traveler is in a foreign country, he or she may get lost or get into some emergency situation. If he or she does not speak the local language and is not familiar with the place, emergency situations can turn into tragedies.

One of the best ways to prevent this is to provide as much detailed information about emergency services as possible. It is also a good idea to allow users to make emergency calls via the application. Additionally, you can also help them get insurance and contact insurance companies.

Now, you might be in doubt whether it makes sense to spend so much time and funds to develop a travel app. After all, why can’t you just develop a mobile version of a travel website? There is a very important reason why which we will provide below.


Why Travel Website Development Is Not the Answer

If mobile travel portal development was the perfect solution and alternative to travel apps, no one would bother to build the latter, wouldn’t they? Research has shown that users prefer apps to mobile websites. User behavior with travel apps differs from mobile websites, and the key KPIs for apps significantly outperform mobile websites.

Data by Criteo Analytics shows that apps enjoy four times higher conversion rates than mobile websites! The add-to-basket and products viewed by users are many times higher as well. Therefore, switching to an app should result in higher conversions and more revenue. Therefore, the money and effort invested in travel app development are likely to be worth it, at least in the long term.

Now that you know how to make a travel application and why it may be a brilliant idea, the next logical question is how to monetize it? That’s exactly what we will answer next.

How to Monetize a Travel App

There are many ways to monetize a mobile app. When it comes to travel applications there exist a few special monetization methods besides the conventional ones. Here is the full list:

  • Advertising
  • Paid downloads
  • Premium features
  • Paid subscription
  • Affiliate sales of travel tickets, booking, etc.

Let’s analyze each of these methods in detail.

How to Monetize a Travel App


One of the most popular and well-known ways to monetize an app is advertising. In the case with a travel app, you can display relevant advertising such as hotels, tour operators, airline ads, etc. You can sell advertising space to companies in the travel & hospitality industry. Ad payment models vary as well: pay per click, pay per 1000 impressions, pay per reach, pay per conversions, etc.

Paid Downloads

Another simple model is charging users for downloading your application. To make this model work, you have to provide sufficient value to users. Otherwise, they won’t be willing to pay for your application.

Premium Features

You can also charge users for access to additional features in the app. It is not mandatory to make your app free if you offer premium features although that would be preferable in many cases.

Paid Subscription

Similarly to the pay-per-download model, you can charge users a monthly fee for using your application. Just as in the case with pay-per-download, the value you provide on a recurring basis must exceed the price you charge.

Commissions from Bookings, Sales of Tickets, etc.

One of the smartest models for travel apps is affiliate commissions. Since users are going to book hotels, air tickets, etc. through your app you can charge an affiliate commission for every purchase. Such a model would be equally beneficial for the app owner and the partners.

It’s also important to mention that you don’t have to settle for just one model. You can combine multiple monetization models in one app. Now that you know why you want to build a travel app, what features to include and how to monetize it, let’s talk about how to find the right team for building a travel app.

How to Find the Right Team to Develop Travel App

How to Find the Right Team to Develop Travel App

Who is going to develop your travel application will ultimately decide the fate and success of this entire venture. Now, what are some common things to look for in a potential mobile application development team? First, the ideal team should have a long and proven experience building all kinds of complex apps. It is even better if they have worked with the travel industry before.

Their developers must be qualified, experienced and have a proven track record. It’s a big plus if they have worked with a big part of your desired technology stack, especially the APIs such as Google Maps and Google Flights.

Not only that, but the responsible stakeholders must have a sufficient understanding of the travel & hospitality industry and the requirements for the application. Travel app development is quite a complex project and its planning shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Which Development Model to Choose for Building a Travel App?

Which Development Model to Choose for Building a Travel App?

What is equally important is the cooperation model which the company prefers. There is the classical 100% outsourcing option when the product owner simply provides requirements and technical specifications. The development company does the rest. However, this model is usually more expensive than the other one – outstaffing.

Check out this guide if you want to learn more about hiring a dedicated development team:

A Complete Guide to Hiring a Remote Software Development Team

Outstaffing implies direct control and management of the dedicated development team by the product owner. The development company simply provides dedicated developers and serves as their official employer. It provides comfortable working conditions, workspace, and various employee benefits. Such a model allows significantly cutting development costs while retaining full control of the development process.


The travel & hospitality industry is one of the most dynamic and largest industries in the world. It is full of opportunities and potential. Combine this with the increasing popularity of mobile devices and applications and you get a huge business opportunity – travel app development.

If implemented correctly, this opportunity can be turned into a profitable business as shown by the multiple examples of successful travel apps. Travel apps have been shown to be much more effective than mobile travel websites so there is no doubt that developing mobile travel applications is a justified business idea. All it takes is including the right features such as geolocation, map integration, trip planning, booking, recommendations, emergency services.

Besides having a great product, it is important to know how to monetize it. That’s why we have listed and described the best travel app monetization models. Finally, without the right team, it is impossible to achieve success. We have provided specific tips on how to find a brilliant app development team and how to build a mobile travel app. Now it’s time to turn your idea into reality! Good luck:)

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