Travel purchases via mobile phone - particularly hotel bookings - are gaining momentum, according to new research carried out by eMarketer.

The study, titled "Travel Purchases on the Go: Mobile Hotel Booking Surges, but Other Transactions Lag," predicts that almost 26 million consumers in the United States will book their trip through a smartphone by the end of this year.

This huge number is hardly a surprise, considering the fact that use of mobile devices is constantly increasing as people find them more convenient and always in their pocket. eMarketer believes that discount offers exclusively designed for mobile devices will further boost last-minute hotel sales. As smartphone spending on hotels is on the rise travel marketers are trying to figure out how to streamline the mobile buying process, according to the research.

Marketers in the sector believe the way to do that is to use mobile apps. Brands that work hard to get users place an order, either for hotel bookings or flights, or anything else related to their trip, are increasingly investing in mobile apps, says Will Pinnell, director of mobile strategy and traveller solutions at Sabre Holdings.

Travellers prefer mobile app experiences over mobile web, according to a March survey by mobile audience intelligence platform Ninth Decimal, formerly known as JiWire. The poll suggests that US mobile Wi-Fi users rank mobile apps developed by travel aggregators, hotels and airlines as more important than the mobile websites of those companies.

Mobile apps offer advantages compared to mobile websites for smartphone users ready to place an order. What's more, mobile apps are developed with the "native" feature set of the particular device, which helps make the experience more user-friendly.

Among the native features of mobile travel apps is the ability to save personal information, including address, credit card data, favourite hotels or loyalty programme numbers. According to industry professionals, the most loyal customers tend to use apps rather than the mobile web, precisely because apps offer a more personalised experience.

Native apps also include features such as location, which helps travellers customise their search to track hotels in close proximity. The app uses the traveller's location and pulls up information about the hotels in the area without the need to provide additional details. This option is not hard to be deployed on the mobile web, but is is more effective when used within a mobile app.

A study by Hospitality Technology last year found that 38% of hospitality executives had mobile apps with GPS functionality when users search. Their number is expected to grow further as businesses and travellers become more and more comfortable with such technology.