Priceline’s Enters Last-Minute Deals Race

Priceline released a new mobile phone app today under its subsidiary to offer last-minute hotel deals at up to 50 percent off.

The online travel agency’s app, called Tonight, is the latest to tap into the market of procrastinating travelers who begin looking for accommodations only after the plane’s wheels touch down.

Many of Priceline’s direct competitors, including Travelocity and Hotwire, offer same-day hotel bookings online. And perhaps the most comparable service is HotelTonight, an app developed by a venture-backed San Francisco start-up. Expedia also has a service called Last-Minute Deals that taps user-generated content so that customers can share deals they’ve found with each other, not using any identifying information.

From what I can tell, however, Priceline’s app is a replica of its online site, offering the same selection of hotel rooms at the same price — where’s the Negotiator now?

Still, the app could be helpful in a pinch, because it has a large inventory of rooms, covering 165 countries. The app also lets you search for rooms based on your location and other filters, such as price, star rating or most popular.

In comparison, the HotelTonight app offers a more boutique experience. It features inventory in only a couple dozen U.S. cities and doesn’t have a huge selection of rooms. In a review, my colleague Katherine Boehret found deals at significant cost savings, including a luxury stay at Langham in Boston’s financial district for $199 rather than $275.

One downside of HotelTonight is that you can’t search for nearby rooms until the afternoon, but if you’ve waited until the day of your stay, then I suppose you can wait a little longer.

Earlier today, Priceline’s stock hit a new 52-week high of $775 a share before pulling back to $753.41. Over the past few years, the stock has soared based on strong international growth.

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