MSNBC: First came LivingSocial Escapes, which offers customers discount vacation packages.
Now comes LivingSocial Instant Escapes, launched Thursday, which offers customers last-minute travel deals up to 55 percent off.
Doug Miller, senior vice president for LivingSocial’s new business initiatives, told msnbc.com that he’s seen a lot of interest from customers in last-minute travel. While most LivingSocial Escapes packages can be booked several months out, Instant Escapes deals are aimed at travelers who don’t have plans for the upcoming weekend. “Our focus is on creating demand,” he said.
Customers can find these last-minute deals on the current LivingSocial Escapes website or mobile app or sign up to receive weekly e-mails. New deals will be posted on Wednesdays, focusing on destinations within driving distance and are good for either that Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. Most deals are one-night stays, Miller said.
The first Instant Escapes deals include:
- $139 per night at the Larkspur Hotel in San Francisco, which also includes a $15 credit to the on-site Bar 1915 and a $75 credit to rent a luxury car;
- $265 per night for a room at The Hudson Hotel in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City, as well as free WiFi, late check-out and continental breakfast for two; and
- $84 per night at Washington, D.C.’s Hotel Madison with a complimentary room upgrade and late check-out.
Since launching a year ago this month, LivingSocial Escapes has sold nearly 600,000 room nights at more than 800 different properties around the world. It was quickly followed by Groupon Getaways, which launched over the summer.
Carroll Rheem, director of research for PhoCusWright, said the challenge for deal sites is to drive incremental bookings, not undercut the price for a customer who was already planning a trip. She sees last-minute escapes as a niche market.
“If you’re kind of bored for the weekend, that’s a very different experience than ‘I know I was going to take a trip,’” she said.