Is Groupon looking to cut out partner Expedia in the Groupon Getaways travel product?
Or, if Groupon doesn't seek to disintermediate Expedia, would Groupon want to bring in additional partners?
In Groupon's first earnings call as a public company yesterday, CEO Andrew Mason said Groupon is "very happy with the progress" of Groupon Getaways, but is already "broadening" it from a sales perspective.
With travel an integral part of Groupon's growth strategy, Mason said Groupon already sources a lot of the hotel deals in Groupon Getaways with its own travel sales force.
So if Groupon's travel sales force is already striking direct relationships with hotels, why share the revenue with Expedia?
Groupon and Expedia launched Groupon Getaways last summer.
It's a time-worn practice at Expedia, and also in travel and outside of travel: partner with a company, learn the business and then dump the partner.
"It seems to me that Groupon is being quite obvious about it," says one travel industry insider, "and Expedia seems to be asleep at the switch."
Groupon has been casting a wide net looking at various travel startups and they are interested in companies with hotel relationships, technology and a great management team.
No one is saying that is indeed Groupon's wish, but the apparently increasing activity of Groupon's own travel sales force raises questions.
Mason said Groupon Getaways is doing "well" with hotel sales, but over time Groupon could add new products and features.
Speaking to financial analysts, he declined to break out numbers for Groupon Getaways.
Asked about the costs of it, Mason said Groupon makes investments in commissions to win initial business, but "over time it lessens."
In the fourth quarter of 2011, Groupon recorded a net loss of nearly $42.3 million compared with a net loss of $313.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Groupon's revenue in the fourth quarter grew 194% to $506.5 million, the company stated.