Despite Google Offers and Groupon IPO, Travelzoo stands fast on Local Deals

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Google has introduced a beta of Google Offers and Groupon teamed with Expedia and is poised for an IPO, but in the face of this flash-sales frenzy, Travelzoo believes its own approach will be “very difficult to replicate.”

That’s the view of Chris Loughlin, the Travelzoo CEO, when asked to comment on how the Groupon-Expedia alliance and the Google Offers beta might impact Travelzoo’s growing Local Deals business.  Loughlin says:

Many companies offer travel deals. We continue to lead the market, as the original high-quality publisher of travel deals, since 1998. Our DNA is very difficult to replicate. We know that because we replicated ourselves in 10 markets outside the U.S. and other companies were not able to copy us successfully.

Loughlin’s confidence comes despite new, emerging competition.

Google has just entered the local deals space with Google Offers.

Recent offers in Portland, Ore., included $10 (half off) for pool at Uptown Billiards Club and $10 worth of drinks and pastries for $3 at Floyd’s Coffee Shop.

And, Google says Google Offers is “coming soon” to Manhattan, and Oakland and San Francisco, Calif.

Consumers can subscribe to Google Offers emails, purchase deals at the Google Offers site and then they’ll receive a confirmation email with a link to a voucher. Google says buyers can redeem the vouchers, “either printed or mobile,” at the local business.

Mashable reports that Google Offers eventually will integrate with Google Wallet.

If Google successfully scales the business, it is possible that it will find a travel partner, just as Groupon has done with Expedia.

And, perhaps newly acquired ITA Software and its Needlebase solution can play a role.

But, Loughlin thinks Travelzoo, which is expanding Local Deals globally, has an advantage over online travel agencies getting into the local deals arena.

“We also continue to work with the industry on a direct basis and are not an OTA,” Loughlin says. “We believe that through our independent newsroom approach, we can remain impartial and continue to gain the trust of our very large number of subscribers.”

Travelzoo’s “newsroom approach,” which has producers, many of whom are former journalists, vetting Top 20 travel and entertainment, and Local Deals, appears to be more than your usual hype.

Conversations with several current and former Travelzoo employees indicate that the vetting of deals from advertisers is taken seriously. Said one: “Ralph [founder and director Ralph Bartel] is a former journalist and he’d rather leave money on the table” than publish a deal that doesn’t pass muster.

And, some of Travelzoo’s employment ads for producers list the following as a responsibility: “Partner with sales staff to nurture advertiser relationships, but never sell out.”

It is hard to envision Google or Groupon hiring teams of former journalists to ensure its local offers are kosher.

Loughlin believes that Travelzoo offers its subscribers something that Google and Groupon may not be able to, and he draws a parallel with Tnooz. Loughlin says:

What keeps your readers coming back and why do you stand out? Because you have the most insightful content and over time you established credibility and trust. The same is true for us. We have 23 million real people who trust our brand and who have taken over 200 million trips and experiences that we have recommended to them. We don’t just have 23 million email addresses.

It remains to be seen just what types of travel deals Groupon and Expedia will offer and if there will be a lot of overlap with those that Travelzoo’s Local Deals touts.

Expedia says the deals will start with hotels, and eventually include vacation packages, cruise, airline tickets, car rentals, tours and destination activities.

Inevitably there will be some overlap with Travelzoo.

Some of its Local Deals seem mundane. For example, today Travelzoo was offering a Local Deal in Baltimore, Md., for $6 (half off) admission into the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards .

On the other hand, a four-course dinner for two with cocktails at Simon at Palms Place in Las Vegas, including two VIP nightclub passes for “Moon, Rain, ghostbar and the Playboy Club” for $99 (normally $291), had a bit more pop today.


So, it remains to be seen whether Travelzoo can maintain the individuality of its DNA in the context of big-name competition.

But, as in online travel or virtually any line of business, there usually is plenty of room for several players.

Related posts:

Travelzoo on Local Deals, Groupon and Ross Perot
Local deals market moves up a gear as Google Offers arrives
Travelzoo reduced marketing to focus on Local Deals

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Travel Deals: All over Asia

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Nepal and Bhutan

The snow-covered landscapes of Nepal and Bhutan are the perfect escape from the scorching summer. Available through Responsible Travel, this 11-day trip focuses on culture, with tours of Kathmandu, Paro and Thimpu – visits to the age-old dzong, or monasteries, and shrines dotted in the mountains; shopping in the local markets for wooden sculptures, traditional, handwoven fabrics and pottery; trips to local museums, including arts and craft institutes, the National Library of Bhutan, home to an extensive collection of Buddhist manuscripts on Himalayan culture and religion, and the Institute of Tibetology, Nepal. Visitors can also add hiking and trekking to the itinerary if they choose. From £905 (Dh5,474) for 11 days, excluding international flights, with accommodation, full board, local flights and transport. Departures from July onwards, with a 10 per cent discount on selected trips in August, September and October. For more information, visit

The Maldives

Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa Maldives has a “pay-five-get-seven family adventure” package that includes accommodation in one of the resort’s spacious two-bedroom beach villas, return domestic flights from Malé to Gan for four persons, four family adventures – a dolphin cruise, a snorkelling trip, a bicycle tour of Addu and a private, guided nature walk, two dinners – a barbecue in the gardens and a torch-lit feast in the jungle – and breakfast. Children receive a bicycle to use during the stay, and kids under six eat gratis. From US$1,800 (Dh6,611) per villa, per night, based on four sharing, including taxes. Valid until September 30. Visit to book.

Baros Maldives, a luxury resort about a 25-minute boat ride from Malé airport, has a special package for GCC residents: book a minimum of four nights in a deluxe villa and get a complimentary upgrade to a luxury villa, a 30-minute spa treatment and free Wi-Fi. From $703 (Dh2,582) per villa, per night, including taxes. The package is valid until August 31. To book, visit or call 00 871 04 448 4670 for details.

India’s north-east

Visit Nagaland and Assam with this two-week trip organised by Travel the Unknown. From colourful festivals to trekking in a national park to a day spent among the Naga tribes, there’s plenty to do and see in India’s north-east. Glimpse the Indian rhino on elephant-back in Kaziranga National Park; spend a day on Majuli Island on the Brahmaputra River; cross into Nagaland and tour the capital, Kohima, for three days of excitement at the Hornbill Festival. Afterwards, head north through the tribal Naga villages of Mokokchung and Mon to end your trip with a visit to one of the sprawling tea estates in Dibrugarh, Assam. The tour costs from £2,095 (Dh12,673) per person, including two domestic flights, accommodation, some meals, local transport, the services of an English-speaking guide, most meals, all activities mentioned in the itinerary, entrance fees to sites. International airfare is not included. Visit for more details.


Beijing and Shanghai are the cities visited on this six-day trip to China. In the capital, spend four days exploring the network of hutongs, wandering around the Forbidden City, climbing the Great Wall and marvelling at the Ming tombs. The last two days are spent touring Shanghai, with visits to the Yuyuan Gardens in the old quarter of the city, an afternoon enjoying the sights on the waterfront, a stop at the Jade Buddha temple and a rewarding climb to the observatory of the Oriental Tower – the views over the city are unparalleled. The trip costs from Dh1,942 per person, including accommodation with breakfast, all transfers and sightseeing by private vehicle, the services of a guide and taxes. International airfare is not included. Visit to book.

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June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals



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Cedar Fair investors reject nomination proposal (AP)

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

SANDUSKY, Ohio – Shareholders of America’s third-largest amusement park chain have turned down a proposal that would have allowed them to nominate members for the company board.

Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. announced the results Thursday.

The vote comes after investors in January elected to block company officeholders from serving as board chair. About two weeks later, the company removed then-chair and chief executive officer Richard Kinzel from the post and appointed board member C. Thomas Harvie.

Kinzel remains the company’s president and CEO. He says Cedar Fair takes input from investors seriously and actively seeks it out.

The January changes came after the company’s largest investor charged that chief leaders had mismanaged the company’s parks.

Cedar Fair operates 18 amusement and water parks, including Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio and Knott’s Berry Farm near Los Angeles.

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June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Launched just in time for what is expected to be Iceland’s busiest travel season on record, new online travel agency offers a variety of low-price vacation packages in Iceland, including tours in the area near the recent Grimsvötn eruption.

Reykjavik, Iceland (PRWEB) June 03, 2011

For travelers on a budget, a holiday in Iceland just got more affordable. New online travel agency offers a variety of low-price vacation packages in Iceland, including flexible self-drive holidays, guided group tours, short city breaks, trekking tours in the highlands and much more.

Operated by Nordic Visitor Ehf, a fully licensed Icelandic travel agency headquartered in Reykjavik, benefits from an extensive network of reliable suppliers in Iceland, enabling the agency to negotiate competitive rates on quality accommodations, car rentals, bus transportation and other services included in its vacation packages.

Furthermore, is staffed exclusively by experienced local travel experts in Iceland, meaning that travelers can expect an authentic Icelandic experience with well designed itineraries and the most popular travel routes. The agency also provides 24/7 emergency travel assistance for customers.

According to CEO Ásberg Jónsson, the website’s launch in late April could not have come at a better time. The recent eruption at Grimsvötn has once again boosted travelers’ interest in Iceland’s natural diversity, and Icelandic tourism officials expect this summer to be the country’s busiest travel season yet.

What’s more, Iceland’s currency, the Króna (ISK), has yet to recover from its historic plunge in 2008, ensuring a favorable exchange rate for international visitors. As a result, Iceland was named a Top 10 Value Destination by Lonely Planet and a Top Travel Destination for 2011 by USA Today Travel.

“The word is out that Iceland is no longer one of the most expensive destinations in the world,” explained Jónsson, “and with our selection of affordable holidays, we’ve made it even easier for travelers to experience Iceland’s unique culture and natural phenomena, like our famous volcanoes, without breaking the bank.” also features its own Iceland Travel Guide, offering a wealth of practical information for visitors about such topics as flights to Iceland, dining and shopping, geography and climate, popular tourist attractions, leisure activities and other staff-picked travel tips.

For more information about and its selection of vacation packages, including special offers and travel deals, please visit

About is an online travel agency specializing in low-price vacation packages in Iceland, including self-drive holidays, city breaks, guided tours and more. Located in Reykjavik, is fully licensed and authorized by the Icelandic Tourist Board.

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For the original version on PRWeb visit:

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Groupon shoots for the moon with Expedia travel deal and IPO

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

This is a big week for Groupon. First we find out about “Groupon Getaways with Expedia”, a combination of Groupon’s daily deals with the comprehensive holiday booking of Expedia. Ahead of the launch of their joint-venture later this summer, Groupon and Expedia have already started their press blitz and email marketing campaigns. And now Groupon has announced an IPO.

What’s the story?

This was sitting in my inbox this morning:

Groupon really is the King of the Daily Deal. It was the firm that proved Group Buying could really work, and was an early adopter of mobile integration with the concept. I signed up. Why not? I love both the Groupon and the Expedia services, and I’m extremely excited to see what they have to offer.

But Groupon has also filed plans for an Initial Public stock Offering, hoping to raise €750 million. Groupon has grown a ridiculous amount in a relatively short time (from 1,500 to 8,000 employees in one year, according to Groupon CEO Andrew Mason). Here at GoMo, we’ve reported on some of the crazy stats the company has racked up, with some truly daunting sales figures and revenue.

We got a stat burst from Experian Hitwise this morning as well, based around Groupon and the popularity of daily deals:
·, by market share of US visits, is the 64th most visited site in the US (out of 1mm+) for the week ending May 28th.
· captured 14 million + total US visits for the week ending May 28th.
·         The market share of US visits for increased 564% comparing last week vs. same week in 2010.
· captured 76% of visits among a category of 81 Group Buying sites for the week ending May 28th.
·         Searches for “groupon” in the US have increased 462% comparing last week vs. same week in 2010.
·         Regarding the deal – Group Buying sites sent 5% of visits to Travel sites last week. That represents a 16% increase in referral traffic from Group Buying sites to Travel sites comparing last week vs. same week in 2010.

What we think?

This is a match made in heaven. If last-minute, ultra-cheap, impulse holidays are your thing, then you’ll love this. Part of the weakness of the Groupon system is that it has to set up slowly on a city-by-city basis. While that guarantees the service will be good in any city it IS running in, it does mean that a lot of people don’t get to use it. But Expedia has partnered with hotels, car rental agents and airlines all over the world – so there’s no reason that relevant deals couldn’t start pouring in to you no matter where you are.

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Fare Deals: Rail passes great way to tour Australia

June 3, 2011 by  
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With deals on from Sears Travel, now marks a great time to check out New York City and wonderful Central Park.

With deals on from Sears Travel, now marks a great time to check out New York City and wonderful Central Park.

Toronto Star/file photo

When you’re railing your way through a country as big as Australia, it can pay to get a pass. ACP Rail has introduced a series of eight rail passes for Downunder, starting from $99 (U.S.) for unlimited train travel over a three- or six-month travel window. The Queensland Explorer Pass covers travel along the Queensland coast from Brisbane to Cairns, while the Aus Reef and Beach Pass includes travel from Cairns to Melbourne and several stops in between. And the Trans Aus Pass covers travel aboard The Ghan (famous for traversing the vast Outback from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south), the Indian Pacific and The Overland, as well as along the coast from Melbourne to Brisbane. The $99 lead-in price applies to the East Coast Discovery Pass, between Sydney and Melbourne in adult standard class, for unlimited travel for six months heading in one direction only with unlimited stopovers between the two cities. See


The “Home in One” package at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina comes with four-bedroom accommodation, breakfast, unlimited golf and complimentary use of a four-seat golf cart, for a lead-in price of $1,600 (all prices U.S.) per night ($400 per person) in low season and $2,000 per night ($500 per person) in high season. Each of the four rooms comes with its own private bathroom. More importantly, the unlimited play is at the 18-hole May River Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus signature course spread over 7,000 yards. There’s a two-night minimum stay, for four people, and the package is available through September. See


Guests at participating Hyatt Hotels Resorts properties will receive hotel credit based on the duration of their stay for travel through Dec. 30. For Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Hyatt hotels in Canada and the U.S., credit amounts start at $75 (all prices U.S.) with a two-night stay and range up to $150 for four or more nights.

At Hyatt Place properties in the U.S., credits lead in at $20 for two nights and top out at $45 for four nights or more, while varying amounts apply to international hotels. See (promo code WELCRE).

Kathryn Folliott is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Prices quoted are subject to change and availability.


Sunquest: Riviera Maya, air hotel, $759 (June 14).

Air Canada Vacations: Antigua, air hotel, $1,159 (June 12).

Nolitours: Punta Cana, air hotel, $587 (June 12).

Transat Holidays: Munich, air hotel, $639 (June 14).

Hola Sun Holidays: Cayo Santa Maria, air hotel, $508 (June 24).

Bel Air Travel: Eastern Caribbean cruise, $799 (June 25).

Sunwing Vacations: Amsterdam, air only, $499 (July 27).

Sell Off Vacations: Paris, air hotel, $719 (July 12).

itravel2000: Glasgow, air hotel, $829 (June 23).

Sears Travel: New York City, air hotel, $1,110 (June 30).

WestJet Vacations: Grand Cayman, air hotel, $779 (Sept. 18).

Trafalgar Tours: Irish Wonder, hotel, some meals, transfers, touring, $1,169 (June 25).

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American Airlines stops accepting bulky baby strollers at gate

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Baby, your brawny, tricked-out stroller no longer will cut it as a gate-check item on American Airlines. The carrier changed its rules Wednesday and now requires passengers to check bulky baby strollers at the ticket counter before proceeding to the gate.

The new rule applies only to non-collapsible baby strollers weighing more than 20 pounds, airline spokesman Tim Smith said. So-called umbrella strollers and collapsible models that weigh less than 20 pounds will still be eligible to be checked at the gate.

“It’s a handling issue,” Smith said. “Gate-checking of strollers occurs at the busiest time at the gate … and holds up the boarding process.” Ticket agents must take cumbersome and heavy strollers down to the jet bridge area and deposit them into a chute to be loaded onto the plane, he said. On the return, baggage handlers must carry them up steps to the owners.

American isn’t alone in the big baby stroller rule. United Airlines has a similar policy that applies to large strollers. However,  Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Virgin America, Southwest and Frontier Airlines appear to allow courtesy gate check-ins for strollers regardless of size, according to their websites and phone calls that I made to reservations agents.

Of course, baby strollers on all of these airlines fly free — no matter how you check them in.

And just a note for newbies flying with kids: Check out the Federal Aviation Administration’s Web page on Child Safety on Airplanes for rules about what restraints can and can’t be used on a plane.

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Minnesota museum presents arctic refuge exhibit (AP)

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

MINNEAPOLIS – The Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota is opening a new exhibit on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The exhibit, “Arctic Sanctuary: Our Collective Refuge,” features large format photographs and text by wilderness landscape photographer Jeff Jones and writer Laurie Hoyle.

Their book, “Arctic Sanctuary: Images of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” commemorates the 50th anniversary of the creation of the wildlife refuge.

The exhibit opens June 25 in the Bell Museum’s Jaques Gallery and will continue through Sept. 4.

The Bell Museum is Minnesota’s official natural history museum where more than four million specimens support ongoing research and teaching at the university.



Bell Museum of Natural History:

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Flag carriers join battle for low-cost sector (AP)

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Three Asian flag carriers have announced plans to set up new low-cost airlines, jumping on the budget airline bandwagon as their cheap and cheerful rivals grab an ever bigger share of passengers and make inroads into the long-haul business.

The region’s full-service carriers have rebounded from the global economic downturn. But they are in a dogfight with each other for lucrative premium-class passengers while low cost airlines like AirAsia and Qantas-owned Jetstar aren’t ceding any of the ground they gained from aggressive expansion during the recession when cheap flights gained extra appeal.

Now, national flag carriers are increasingly deciding that if you can’t beat them, join them. Some analysts say that shows the traditional airlines are finally facing up to the major strategic challenge that has been looming for the past decade: the incursion of low-cost carriers into short-haul flights and, more recently, into bread-and-butter long-haul routes — flights longer than 6 hours.

“Ten years ago, low-cost carriers only accounted for one percent of the market” in Asia, said Brendan Sobie, analyst at the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

“Five years ago, they accounted for about nine percent. This year, they will account for almost 20 percent,” he said, predicting the figure could double within the next decade.

The proliferation of budget airlines, and their new moves into intercontinental flights, spells good news for travelers: increased competition will further drive down air fares as the line between low cost and full-service airlines becomes increasingly blurry.

But it will also mean an even tougher fight to stay profitable for both budget and regular carriers as they grapple with high fuel costs. The International Air Transport Association has forecast Asia-Pacific Airlines to earn combined profits of $3.7 billion this year, down from $7.6 billion in 2010.

In Malaysia, budget airlines account for nearly half of seat capacity, in Singapore, they account for 22 percent and in Thailand about 17 percent, eating into the business of flag carriers in the three Southeast Asian countries.

Yet, it came as a surprise to the industry when Singapore Airlines Ltd. — one of the world’s most profitable carriers — announced last month plans to set up a budget airline to operate medium and long-haul routes next year.

The move follows the appointment of new management this year and is a major gamble for the national airline, which relies heavily on business and first-class travelers who make up a small percentage of seats but account for up to 40 percent of revenue. It will be only the second flag carrier to launch a low-cost unit after Qantas Airways Ltd.

“It is a defensive move in a difficult market,” said Rigan Wong, analyst at Citigroup Inc. in Hong Kong.

Singapore Airlines already owns a third of low-cost carrier Tiger Airways, which flies short-haul routes. It also owns SilkAir, which occupies a niche between premium and low cost for medium-haul flights. Singapore Airlines will be able to cater to travelers it currently doesn’t reach by adding a budget long-haul airline, Wong said.

Singapore Airlines hopes to echo the success of AirAsia X, which started in 2007 and became profitable just three years later with flights to 15 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.

While route details are unknown, CAPA said Singapore Airlines could target fast growth markets in China, India and Europe in a direct challenge to AirAsia X, which is partly owned by AirAsia and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and JetStar.

Elsewhere in Asia, other flag carriers are only just getting around to venturing into the low cost approach to short-haul routes.

In Japan, All Nippon Airways is to tie-up with Hong Kong-based First Eastern Investment to set up the country’s first budget carrier. Peach Aviation is expected to start flights in March 2012, offering fares on short-haul international routes at 50 percent lower than current prices.

Thai Airways has also approved plans for a wholly owned budget carrier to operate two to three hour flights from Bangkok by early 2012. It has also been trying to form a venture with Singapore’s Tiger Airways but resistance from Thai regulators and other hurdles may end up scuttling the long-delayed plan.

“In today’s business, we cannot survive in the long run if we do not compete at every level. We have lost huge opportunities by not having a budget airline for two years now, so it is high time to get things moving fast now,” Thai Airways chairman Ampon Kittiampon said last month, according to Thai media reports.

Analysts said more long-haul airlines aimed at travelers on a tight budget are likely to emerge in Asia, with plans in the pipeline by Indonesia’s privately owned Lion Air and Japan’s Skymark. Jetstar, which flies from Singapore to Australia and New Zealand, plans to begin flights to Europe and North Asia.

Outside Asia, CAPA said Air Canada is seeking approval for a proposed long-haul low-cost carrier, but success in the trans-Atlantic market is uncertain following the collapse of Canadian-British carrier Zoom. After seven years, Zoom file for bankruptcy in 2008 blaming rising oil prices.

Citigroup’s Wong says low-cost carriers flying long-haul routes will in particular cause changes in the airline industry.

It may see full-service carriers cutting fares on long-haul routes in attempt to squeeze out budget airlines. Some may also adopt the low-cost model of giving customers the choice to pay for the additional services they want such as food and in-flight entertainment, he said.

“Until full-service carriers respond more aggressively to the competition, low-cost airlines may continue to build market share gains in the long-haul segment and generate good profits,” Wong said.

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