How to convert a travel website into a mobile app
November 10, 2023
Mobile apps are essential tools for businesses in reaching and engaging with customers. In fact, apps can be game-changers, enabling companies to offer personalized experiences, streamline bookings, and enhance customer satisfaction. That is exactly the type of competitive edge most agencies need to thrive in today’s travel industry, which is why building an app to complement your website is a good idea.
However, before you can enjoy all of those benefits, you need to understand how web-to-app transformation works. Let's explore the different approaches, weigh the pros and cons, and find out how converting a travel website to an app can drive your business forward.
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Advantages of having a mobile app for travel companies
Access to mobile features
Tap into unique mobile capabilities through your app: make use of GPS navigation, cameras, push notifications and more. When you create a mobile app from a tourism website, you provide users with convenient, on-the-go tools like maps, real-time updates, and reminders.
Add a handy in-app chat for customer service and you’ve given travelers a companion in their back pocket. Enhance their user experience with the tools they already know and love.
Half of all smartphone users are comfortable researching, planning, and booking entire trips through a mobile app. Give travelers a reason to stick with you by providing everything they need in one neat place.
Apps are also great for upselling. Use targeted push notifications or in-app messages to promote experiences, upgrades, travel insurance, and more.
You can also introduce loyalty programs to ensure your customers keep coming back for your services, generating more lifetime value.
Direct customer engagement
Mobile apps are engaging by design — generally, they’re more concise and interactive versions of websites. It’s increasingly hard to capture attention in today’s travel market, which is why it’s important to convert a travel website to a mobile app. Not only will this put your brand directly in people’s hands, but you can reap the engagement benefits of push notifications and in-app messages. These are entirely new channels through which you can connect with your audience and improve customer retention.
Brand loyalty and engagement
As mentioned, an app on a customer’s mobile device is a constant reminder of your services, and that is a good enough reason for you to turn a travel website into an app. With your logo front and center, you’ll help your brand become the first thing customers associate with their travel-related needs. Add notifications and personalized offers to the mix, and you’ll see a significant increase in customer loyalty and brand awareness.
Data collection and analysis
Mobile apps are an incredible source of valuable marketing data. Converting your tourism website into an app gives you access to customer preferences, booking patterns, and interaction metrics. All of that insight can be analyzed to help you make informed business decisions, develop a tailored marketing strategy, and identify trends.
Improved customer service
Apps will level up your customer service. Thanks to in-app messages and chatbots, your customers can enjoy quick responses wherever they are in their booking journey. Making contact with your company feel as natural as sending a text will go a long way to boosting overall customer satisfaction.
A well-designed and convenient travel app will set you apart from competitors who only offer a mobile website, especially for younger audiences. An app demonstrates your commitment to providing a top-notch user experience and can offer modern features that websites simply can’t. This will help you stand strong from an advertising perspective.
Ways to turn your website into a travel app
So you’ve got a great website, but now you’re ready to build a tourism mobile app from the website. There are three main conversion strategies you can choose from to achieve this: you can develop a webview app, a fully custom app, or a hybrid app. Let’s check all of them out so you can make an informed choice.
In this approach, the app essentially acts as a container that displays the website within a webview component. Webview apps allow for easy porting of your existing website content and functionality — it will look, feel, and function quite similarly to your website. Maintaining a webview app is straightforward, since updates made to your website are directly transferred into the app.
The downside of this method is pretty obvious: when your app is basically a webpage viewer, you don’t get much extra mobile functionality. On top of that, the performance of webview apps depends on which web technologies are used, and they can experience slower load times and less responsiveness.
Fully custom app
A fully custom app involves building a native mobile application from scratch specifically for your travel website. This approach hands you complete control over your app's design, features, and performance. It also provides a richer user experience, and can fully utilize mobile features like GPS, cameras, offline access, and so on.
While this solution results in a multifunctional and scalable app, you have to consider that it will also take more time and investment from you to develop, including separate coding for different platforms. Custom apps also require ongoing maintenance and updates to keep up with evolving OS versions.
As you’ve already guessed, hybrid apps combine elements of both webview and native development approaches. The idea is that the core content is native, while some parts of the app are webview.
This approach tries to combine the best features of native and webview development. Since some of the content is made via webview, it saves a lot of time on development, but you can still utilize native capabilities, like storing some content locally, so that travelers can access it without the internet.
If you choose to convert a travel website into an app like this, you’ll need a team proficient in both web and native technologies. You also won’t get the level of control that you would with native apps and you may experience some compatibility challenges that require additional effort and testing.
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What is the best way to convert your website into a mobile app?
Choosing the best way to turn your website into a tourism app isn’t an easy decision. Each approach offers great advantages but also bears some difficulties. However, when it comes to the travel sector, we consider the hybrid app approach most suitable for most agencies.
First of all, let’s compare hybrid apps to native ones.
The main advantage is that the app conversion process is quicker and will cost you less. While there are cross-platform native apps, in hybrid ones some modules are webview, so you won’t have to develop them from scratch in native code, and that makes everything much easier.
The hybrid approach also allows for seamless updates: parts of code reside on the server side, which reduces the need for users to download and install updates from the app store.
Ok, but why hybrid apps over webview apps?
Hybrid apps offer much more in terms of functionality, flexibility, and scalability. Access to native device features offers users a bit more than your website can, and allows for future growth.
However, it's always important to evaluate the specific needs and requirements of your travel agency before starting any development project. Think about the desired features, performance expectations, and budget for your future app.
When you convert a tourism website to an app, you open up new ways to engage with your customers and enhance their overall experience. Apps provide businesses with multiple benefits like upsell opportunities and increased brand recognition.
While there are different routes you can take to create the app from the travel website, including webview apps, fully custom apps, and hybrid apps, the hybrid option emerges as the most suitable choice for travel businesses. Hybrid apps are cost effective and provide most of the needed features for your customers.
Is it cost-effective to convert a travel website into a mobile app?
Turning a website into a travel app can be cost-effective, especially when opting for hybrid app development, as this reduces native app development efforts.
Can I use the same content from my website in the app?
Yes, you can transfer the same content from your website into your app by integrating your website's APIs or embedding some website modules, depending on which approach you choose for development.
Can users access the app offline for trip-planning purposes?
Yes, with proper implementation, users will be able to access certain features and data offline, so they can plan and manage their trips wherever they are in the world, even without an internet connection.