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Friday, September 30, 2011

Priceline Unveils 'Tonight-Only Deals' Mobile App

USA Today: Need to book a hotel room in a pricey city tonight and still want a deal? As of today, Priceline.com is ready to help. The hotel discounter is unveiling a mobile service, Tonight-Only Deals, aimed at travelers who are looking for a room at the last minute and want a deal — and the identity of their hotel — before they make a purchase. Priceline says consumers can expect up to 35% off published room prices by using the service.

Priceline is best known for its "name your own price" feature promoted by actor William Shatner. It offers up to 60% off published rates in exchange for hiding the hotel's name until the purchase is complete. Last-minute bookers will find the Tonight-Only Deals featured on Priceline's 2-year-old Hotel Negotiator app for iPhones. The app doesn't yet exist for Android phones.

"Think of this as a way to get savings but also know the hotel upfront," says John Caine, Priceline's senior vice president of marketing.

Priceline thinks the service will be a hit given the mobile world's "I want it now" attitude. An example of rates Wednesday night that Priceline says would be typically available on Tonight-Only Deals: A same-day room at the luxury Taj Boston was $230 compared with $280 on Hotels.com and $349 on the hotel's website. Priceline decided to go after the same-day booking market after finding that 70% of its mobile bookings are made the same day, Caine says.

So far, Priceline has little competition in the app world for travelers with constantly changing plans or those who are planning a last-minute getaway. Only one company — app-only start-up HotelTonight — targets these travelers.

HotelTonight founder Sam Shank says his service has seen steady growth since its launch in February. Today, Shank says, HotelTonight will expand into weekend-getaway hotels, resorts and bed-and-breakfasts near four major cities, including Boston and New York.

HotelTonight offers same-day deals in 22 cities. Priceline is launching its new service with 34 cities, including New York, Las Vegas and Boston. Deals will be posted at 11 a.m. local time.

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