Priceline To Offer Resort Travel Service

Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) announcedThursday that it is launching a resort getaway service that it claims will save travelers up to 40 percent off typical rates.

The Norwalk, Connecticut-based company said it was able to introduce the newcategory, which follows its name-your-own-price operating model, by buildinga “critical mass” of hotel properties.

“Offering a separate hotel category for vacation-oriented resorts is yetanother example of Priceline.com listening to our customers and respondingwith the services they want,” said Priceline president and chief operatingofficer Jeff Boyd.

According to Priceline, the resorts participating in the program must offertennis courts, a spa or fitness facility, one or more pools, multiple foodand beverage choices, and an on-site or nearby golf range. Resorts incoastal areas must have beachfront access in order to be included in the e-tailer’s offering.

Expansion Efforts

Priceline said it has already signed upresorts in more than 10 locations in the United States, and is slated to enter markets in Mexico and the Bahamas this summer.

In March, the company unveiled a last-minute travel bookings service,expanding its offerings of airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars in abid to appeal to spur-of-the-moment leisure travelers.

Priceline — which was battered last year by a barrage of negative news,sluggish sales, the shuttering of its gasoline and grocery affiliate, and aplummeting stock price — has implemented an aggressive restructuring planto focus its attention on the highly competitive travel business.

Turnaround Time

The efforts seem to paying off. In first-quarter results released lastmonth, Priceline reported a pro formanet loss of US$6.2 million, or 3 cents per share, beating analystestimates for a loss of 5 to 7 cents per share.

The company also said that it added 891,490 new customers during the periodand generated repeat business of 58 percent. In addition, Priceline’s grossprofits rose 23 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2000, to $43.1million. At the time, the e-tailer said it “remains confident” that it willturn an operating profit in the second quarter.

The better-than-expected results came on the heels of positive earningsreports posted by Priceline’s chief sector rivals, Expedia.com (Nasdaq: EXPE)and Travelocity.com (Nasdaq: TVLY), which both saw first-ever profitablequarters.

Exec Shuffle

Although Priceline appears to making strides in its drive to reachprofitability, the e-tailer announced last month that it was replacing president and chief executiveofficer Daniel Schulman, who had joined the company in 1999.

Priceline said its board concluded that Schulman’s ouster was in the bestinterest of the e-tailer and its shareholders, in view of the company’s”future objectives.”

Chairman Richard Braddock reassumed the reins as the company’sCEO, a position he held from July 1998 to May 2000, while chief operatingofficer Jeffery H. Boyd was appointed president.

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