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Groupon acquired Madrid-based tonight-only deals specialist Blink in September, and plans on integrating these HotelTonight-like same-day hotel offerings into Groupon mobile apps in 2014, Skift has learned.
The Blink app, rebranded a month ago as Blink by Groupon, will remain, but tonight-only hotels, with lodging offerings becoming available at noon each day — and usually for that night only — will become a feature in the Groupon app either alongside Groupon Getaways, powered by Expedia, or separate from it, says Aaron Cooper, Groupon’s senior vice president of global travel.
Already Groupon’s sales force in Europe is approaching hotels with a variety of options, including flash sales of vacation packages and now tonight-only hotels, as well.
Look for the 60-70 member Groupon sales force in the U.S. dedicated to Groupon Getaways to start making similar pitches in the U.S., as well.
Although Expedia has been Groupon’s primary travel partner, with Groupon Getaways powered by Expedia, since 2011, Groupon’s own sales force is the entity that strikes the vacation package deals, although both companies market Getaways, says Simon Goodall, Groupon’s general manager of travel in North America.
All of this could be a challenge to HotelTonight, Priceline, Booking.com and Hipmunk, all of which sell tonight-only deals.
Cooper says travelers are already buying last-minute hotels — but not those offered on a tonight-only basis — on Groupon, and adding tonight-only hotels rounds out the offering to consumers and the value proposition to hotels as Groupon evolves “from daily deal business that works well for travel to a travel business.”
Asked whether the flash sales part of that travel business is dead, Cooper says Groupon’s travel segment billings grew 52% in the third quarter of 2013, compared with the same period a year earlier.