June 22, 2011 at 4:44 PM ET
Flash-sale websites, it seems, are no flash in the pan. You may not strike it rich, but with more sites joining the mix, it’s easier than ever to score a good deal.
The latest offering is Spire.com, which launched on Tuesday and promises to offer deals on luxury hotels that are at least 30 percent off the lowest rates found anywhere else.
Like other travel-related flash-sale sites, such as JetSetter, SniqueAway and Vacationist, Spire presents a small, rotating selection of properties on a limited-time basis. Typically, access to the deals is constrained via membership — usually free and/or by invitation by an existing member — enhancing the feeling of exclusivity while helping hotels avoid across-the-board discounting.
“The big players do it really well,” said Donna Quadri-Felitti, a professor of hospitality and tourism at New York University, “but there’s really some inventive stuff going on in the space.”
Case in point: Spire’s Best Deal Guarantee, which underpins the company’s 30-percent-lower promise. “If you purchase something on our site for $1,000 and find the same offer somewhere else for $1,200, we’ll still give you $100 in Spire credits because we weren’t 30 percent lower,” said Jennifer Gaines, the company’s senior travel editor.
In another differentiating twist, the company lets members cancel reservations, offering refunds (minus a $29 fee) for up to 72 hours after booking. Most flash-sale purchases are non-cancelable and non-refundable.
But just as Spire ups the flash-sale stakes, it, too, will face increasing competition. Earlier this week, flash-shopping site ideeli.com launched a dedicated travel channel called ideeli travel. Partnering with flash-travel site Voyage Privé, the site is currently highlighting resorts, cruises and packages at 33 to 71 percent off.
Finally, consider Groupon Getaways, the proposed joint offering from the king of online coupons and Expedia, the 800-pound gorilla of online travel agencies. Expected to launch in the coming weeks, the partnership is expected to debut with limited-time deals of up to 50 percent off on hotels in the U.S. and Canada. Future plans include deals on airline tickets, cruises and packages.
“There are a lot of new entries in the space,” said Quadri-Felitti, who believes flash-sale sites will continue striking a chord with travelers: “Consumers have learned to watch for sales. These sites just package them in a much more attractive and targeted way.”
More stories you might like
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.