When Groupon announced in early June that it would be teaming up with Expedia to launch Groupon Getaways, it joined a proud tradition of offering luxury vacation packages for super cheap rates—a tradition that has been hitherto led by an elite group of daily deal sites, including LivingSocial and Gilt Groupe (Jetsetter). LivingSocial Escapes, of course, has been the reigning champion of getaway deals, so the question was, can Groupon compete? And after officially launching Groupon Getaways late Monday night, the answer is, unequivocally, yes. Yes, it can.
Among its first batch of 13 vacay deals are trips to Tahiti, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Orlando, Antigua, and more, but the real test of Groupon’s mettle was going to be whether or not the group-buying pioneer could offer deals for 50% off or more, since that is Groupon’s policy for its merchant deals. From the looks of it, the vast majority of the getaways offered are, at minimum, 50% off, except for one or two deals that are 45% off the original value, which is also the case for LivingSocial’s Escape deals. And, like LivingSocial Escape deals, each Groupon Getaway is offered for a week at a time.
So Groupon is showing that it can go toe-to-toe with LivingSocial, which has dominated the cheap-vacay space since November 2010, when it launched the service one month after acquiring Urban Escapes. Travel deals range from small, local B&Bs to international resorts, and LivingSocial typically offers approximately 20 travel deals at a time.
Unique to Groupon Getaways, however, is Groupon’s access to Expedia’s user base and the 135,000 hotels that work with Expedia. With Expedia as a partner, Groupon Getaways can offer package deals for airline tickets, car rentals, cruises, activities, and more.
For example, the Tahitian Vacation Package currently available allows subscribers to pay $500 for a $1000 voucher that can be used for airfare, hotels, tours, or even crewed yacht chartings. Typically, vacation deals from other sites do not include airfare, which is usually the biggest stumbling block for me when I’m planning a vacation I can’t afford.
The only thing missing from Groupon Getaways--and indeed, a true departure from Groupon's style: no snark in the product descriptions.