Hostelworld Case Study
Hostelworld brings travelers together worldwide with Sendbird
Based in Dublin, Ireland, Hostelworld Group is a leading Online Travel Agent service with over 13.7 million reviews and a loyal customer base built over 22 years. Their core business provides customers with hostel accommodation options with over 16,500 hostels globally, and hostel focused small group adventure tour products in over 180 countries.
“Chat seems easy to an end user. You send a message and it's there, but actually it's a very difficult product to build. I'm confident if we did this in house, it would have been at least six to nine months without Sendbird.”
Head of Mobile Product and Growth
While booking online lodging was originally a new and uncommon concept in the early 2000s, Hostelworld remained a relatively simple web booking service for years, well into the era of travel apps becoming more commonplace. With the introduction of its mobile app in 2015, Hostelworld began its digital transformation and sought to completely revamp how users interacted with both the service and other users by 2022.
Over half of Hostelworld’s customers are solo travelers, and one of the primary reasons users book using their service is to meet other travelers along the way. The company’s research shows that 72% feel nervous ahead of their trip, and 30% dread introducing themselves to strangers first. Overall, 80% of users were seeking some sort of chat functionality.
With the revamp, the intent was to provide users with a native platform to plan and communicate travel all-in-one application versus leaving to other third-party apps such as Whatsapp, WeChat, or Messenger. This would allow users traveling to the same city to meet via chat and interact with each other ahead of time, removing the barriers of making friends in person.
However, Hostelworld recognized that building chat was not their area of expertise and wanted to focus on the mobile app redesign instead of all the intricacies of building viable chat functionality.
With the early realization that building chat in-house was not an option, Jelena Vukadinovic, Head of Mobile Product and Growth, began searching for a third-party chat solution to aid the Hostelworld revamp. Vukadinovic states that when the company “started planning out the social lounge feature, there was already so much work involved in redesigning the app, re-coding it completely, and then building additional features on top. It felt like a better solution to go with a vendor who already knew how to build chat because we don’t have that expertise in-house.”
Amongst the list of potential vendors, Sendbird stood out for several reasons. First, table-stakes features such as “being able to send messages, videos, and other types of content were the immediate checkboxes that needed to be marked,” explains Vukadinovic.
Following these features was chat room functionality. Vukadinovic states, “the important thing for us was the ability to have different types of chat rooms. Whether that’s a one-to-one chat or a group chat, giving us the flexibility to build those out where you’re automatically added to a chatroom, or you can get invited into a chatroom was integral.” As chat was to be used across the whole application, flexibility to determine how chatrooms functioned and in what manner was necessary to build an improved user experience. “If you’re staying with somebody in the same hostel, we’ll put you into this particular hostel chat but will also invite you to other chats that are on a city level for those who are in the same area you’ve booked,” elaborates Vukadinovic.
Furthermore, privacy was a massive differentiator for Hostelworld. With other third-party apps, users often must share personal information such as phone numbers with strangers. With Sendbird’s high level of security, on top of GDPR compliance, data is appropriately encrypted for the safety of users, and any sensitive data remains secure while chatting.
These contributing factors, along with proper support and the ability to provide reliable performance across global regions, were ultimately why Hostelworld selected Sendbird as their vendor of choice.
Vukadinovic states that with Sendbird, Hostelworld was able to go to market much faster than having to dedicate resources building in-house. Implementation of basic chat took only four weeks, allowing the Hostelworld team to focus entirely on the redesign and revamp around chat. “We wanted all of the chat functionalities to be built fairly quickly. I’m confident that if we built this in-house, it would’ve taken at least six months longer than with Sendbird. Furthermore, we really appreciated that Sendbird allows for a wide range of customisations that we took advantage of to tailor to our exact use cases,” says Vukadinovic.
The Hostelworld team is also confident that with Sendbird’s proven ability to scale with other large global brands, travel seasonality and the uptick of users in the summer will not be an issue. While the app just recently relaunched with its new chat features, Vukadinovic expects the monthly active user count to climb to hundreds of thousands during peak travel season, so the selected chat vendor would need to support at least that level of traffic. With Sendbird’s ability to scale to millions of users concurrently, the Hostelworld team moves into summer with complete preparedness.
Ultimately, Hostelworld is very bullish on the potential of their new app as it gains more and more traction each day, with Sendbird at the crux of its social community initiative. Vukadinovic elaborates that “what I look for in vendors is the intangible relationship you can build with them. Whether you’re there every step of the way when we have questions and helping us work through them, or helping us work through use cases you’ve never had before,” these are the tenets of a trustworthy and dependable vendor, and why Hostelworld chose Sendbird to be at the center of their transformation.
Since day one, Sendbird has partnered with AWS to establish itself as a leading conversations platform that enables a secure, global, and scalable in-app conversation experience. Sendbird is an AWS advanced tier technology partner operating 45+ AWS native services in 9 regions. Thanks to Amazon’s AWS Auto Scaling and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud services, Sendbird manages massive digital traffic sending billions of messages monthly. Using Elastic Load Balancing and Amazon Route53 geolocation functions, Sendbird ensures reliable global traffic distribution. Sendbird also leverages AWS CloudFormation to automate its servers’ management in each region efficiently. Lastly, AWS Elasticache and Amazon Aurora allow Sendbird to achieve millisecond latency and data storage for over 250 million monthly active users. Sendbird’s world-class conversation platform architecture and technical foundations are certified by AWS.