LivingSocial hits 1M room nights but Priceline should not feel boxed inNewsBy Dennis Schaal | March 30, 2012Share This article was originally published on LivingSocial, a flash sales site, believes its travel vertical is no flash in the pan after having just reached the milestone of selling 1 million hotel room nights.Some 16 months after debuting LivingSocial Escapes, the company hit the 1 million room-nights sold mark, and at a quickening pace.It took LivingSocial 11 months to sell the first half million, and it now says it sold the next 500,000 in just five months.Well, it must be relatively easy when you are selling "vacations in a box," as LivingSocial describes them. The hotel vouchers often are packaged -- or boxed -- with extras such as free breakfast, winery tours or dining credits, for instance.LivingSocial calculates that it is selling 62,500 room nights per month.That may be material to LivingSocial's bottom line, but it is a tiny fraction of the nearly 12 million room nights that global leader Priceline sells on a monthly basis.The 1 million room nights were sold to LivingSocial members in North America, the company says.Yes, not an apples to apples comparison at all, but it puts startup LivingSocial's milestone in context.Meanwhile, there was an interesting tidbit in LivingSocial's telling of reaching the 1 million room-nights mark.The company believes, based on past user surveys, that it is inspiring people to travel who weren't necessarily inclined to doing so."Seventy percent of Escapes purchasers were not actively looking to book travel when they bought one of our packages, so we are creating demand and bringing new guests to our hotel partners that wouldn't have booked with them otherwise," says Dave Madden, general manager of LivingSocial Escapes, North America.How ironic would it be if flash sales sites become the true winners in travel inspiration and social travel.Madden, who previous served as senior director, global sales and business development at Expedia Media Solutions, says LivingSocial's approach is to curate vacations "versus just throwing everything into a package to see what sticks."He claims this also distinguishes LivingSocial Escapes from other flash sales competitors, including Groupon.Actually, Travelzoo makes a similar argument about Travelzoo Local deals."LivingSocial is not trying to be the next online travel agency," Madden says. "We are doing something different."He says LivingSocial is trying to cut through the "information overload" for its "vacations in a box," which hopefully will be complete and unique enough to prompt customers to "hit the buy button," Madden says.In addition to improving the customer experience on the site, LivingSocial plans to introduce more international trips, come of which will include flights, he says.Says Madden: "We've always done well with the near-cation."