NEW YORK – Booking.com is treading a familiar path with the launch of a pilot project that will help gauge what features can be eventually be fed into the brand's main app.
The app, known as CityBook, is a "digital guide" for destinations that will combine content, planning tools such as maps, navigation and experiences.
It launches this week for travellers in London, Paris and Amsterdam, with New York, Berlin, Barcelona and Rome expected to be added in the coming months.
Features in the new app include recommendations for things to do and attractions, including offers and discounts, as well as tapping into the user's existing trip information to help service relevant content.
Using machine learning, Booking.com says, CityBook will use the location of the user to provide local things to do, weather reports and other geo-specific information.
In addition, it will also make recommendations on things to do based on how far into a trip the user is, including availability of specific products.
Ram Papatla, vice president of Experiences at Booking.com, said, "Bouncing between dozens of sites and apps to get the best information and then still having to book everything separately is not the most enjoyable or seamless process.
"We want to help people focus on the fun part of travel planning - inspiration - and make the booking and organisation for a trip a snap, with actionable content that’s all bookable in a couple of taps and all conveniently organised in one place.”
How popular particular functions are and how traveller uses them will be taken into consideration and later incorporated into the flagship Booking.com app, Mr Papatla said.
It's not the first time that the brand has launched a subsidiary, essentially as a test bed, before rolling into the main service.
Villas.com was launched in May 2014, as part of a bid to capture the growing tide of consumers looking for stays in places other than traditional hotels.
The site lasted until early-2016, when it was switched off and alternative accommodation became made a major part of Booking.com.