During a speech this morning at the PhoCusWright travel industry conference in Miami, LivingSocial CEO Tim O'Shaughnessy (pictured) announced his company's Instant Escapes product, which will offer last-minute weekend hospitality packages. Moments later, TravelZoo CEO Chris Loughlin grilled O'Shaughnessy on whether he had ample funding for his continued expansions and if the daily deals business was profitable.
O'Shaughnessy didn't budge on the privately held company's financials. The tension between the two execs seemed indicative of how competitive the digital travel industry has become, and suggested established travel services don't necessarily welcome the LivingSocials and Groupons of the world.
"It's become increasingly hard to stand out in the pack [among] travel brands," O'Shaughnessy said during his keynote.
Loughlin later said, "You said earlier there isn't a travel company sending out an email on Wednesday for [vacation packages] that weekend. I can think of at least one."
Washington, DC-based LivingSocial will offer hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other nearby-vacation/"staycation" providers the chance to sell vacant weekend inventory only a few days before. The deals will be made available via subscriber emails, a tab on LivingSocial's mobile app, and on the firm's website.
An example of a this-weekend-only deal being offered today through Saturday: $265 per night for a room at The Hudson Hotel in New York City, including WiFi, late check-out, and continental breakfast for two. According to LivingSocial, the deal is normally worth $529.
Instant Escapes builds on the company's Escapes vacations product that was launched in November 2010. LivingSocial says Escapes has sold almost 600,000 room nights at 800 properties worldwide.
The firm continues to expand vigorously, debuting two other beta products just a couple of days ago. It unveiled a digital restaurant ordering system for food pick-ups and delivery that directly competes with Seamless. And it announced Room Service, a so-called white-glove delivery program that will pair LivingSocial with fine dining establishments.
LivingSocial's other discount programs are Daily Deals, Instant Deals, Adventures, and Families. O'Shaughnessy said his four-year-old brand has 4,000 employees worldwide.
The company's expansions indicate the arms race with Groupon and Google Offers will continue. And it's assured that niche digital marketers will keep an eye on any new encroachments by the deals players - especially if keynoting their industry events becomes a regular occurrence.
O'Shaughnessy announced his new travel product today before not only TravelZoo's Loughlin, but also execs from Expedia, HomeAway, MakeMyTrip.com, and Booking.com - a Priceline.com-owned company.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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