All posts by Martin Kelly

Perisher Invests in New Quad Chair, Additional Snow-making

Perisher, Australia’s biggest ski resort, is replacing the Leichhardt T-Bar and Home Rope Tow with a new quad chairlift and also upgrading snow-making. Peter Brulisauer, chief operating officer of Perisher, said the development will boost lifting capacity by 75% in the area. Mountain manager Andrew Kennedy said the new lift will access “some of the best tree skiing in the resort off Powder Ridge.” The work will cost $4.2m and be completed in time for  the 2018 ski season.

Growth Story – Experience Co Buys Two More FNQ Operators

Experience Co yesterday announced its eight and ninth acquisitions since 2015, buying north Queensland tourism operators Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises (Cairns) and Tropical Journeys (Port Douglas) for $56m in cash and shares. Anthony Boucaut, Experience Co’s MD and founder, said this was further evidence of the company’s desire to become “the largest and most respected adventure tourism company in the world.”

Luxury Escapes Buys Scoopon Travel & BonVoyage from Catch

Adam Schwab, Managing Director, Lux Group & Gabby Leibovich, Co-founder, Catch Group

The Lux Group, which owns online travel business Luxury Escapes, has bought Scoopon Travel and BonVoyage as part of a complicated, multi-faceted transaction with the Catch Group that will create a pure-play online travel business with $300m turnover and enormous buying power while clearing the way for further growth. More 

Start Small, Think Big – Ambitious Travlr Raises $5m

Travlr CEO Simon te Hennepe

A business that started as a PDF list of things to do in Bali shared among friends has raised $5 million to fund further expansion.

Now The Bali Bible – a website which attracts 2m visits a month – is the cornerstone of Travlr, providing a profitable template that will be replicated in numerous other destinations via an aggressive rollout strategy starting with Seychelles, Indonesia,  Cook Islands and New Zealand. More 

Serko’s Spectacular Rebound – Now Profitable and Worth $134m

Serko CEO Darrin Grafton, foreground.

In April, the shares of corporate travel management and booking platform Serko – which listed at $1.10* on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in 2014 – hit an all-time low of 25 cents. Now those same shares are worth $1.80 – an increase of more than 700%.

So what’s changed? The short answer is that Serko has stopped bleeding cash and is finally profitable. Revenue is also up, though still modest at an annualised rate of $17.8m, growth remains strong at 30%, while operating costs have been cut. More 

Airbnb Ambushed by Radio Host as Talk Turns to Tax

As all actors know, it’s one thing working with a script but having to ad lib when things go wrong is the true test of any performer – or PR flack.  So that was the test for Airbnb mouthpiece Brent Thomas when ABC talk host Jon Faine went off script in an interview on his top-rating Victorian show last Friday. It was ostensibly about potential legislative changes on the Mornington Peninsula to curtail Airbnb party houses but Faine was more interested in the amount of tax the multi-national pays. Thomas found that adopting the party line and avoiding the question can have unintended consequence. Well worth a listen: Faine v Airbnb.

Hotel Metasearch – One Trick Pony? Shallow Business Model Under Pressure as OTAs Pull Back, Switch Tack and Focus on Brand

Candour at last! In a remarkably transparent appraisal of its business model and operating environment, hotel meta-search engine Trivago has revealed 79% of its mostly click-based revenue comes from just two customers, online travel agents owned by either Priceline Group (45% share) or Expedia (34%).

Now Trivago, and TripAdvisor (see story), are paying the price for putting all their eggs in a single basket with Priceline and Expedia cutting back on their their meta-search spend. This is having an immediate impact on the meta-search bottom line, forcing Trivago in particular to reassess its business model. More 

Intrepid Group Aims for $1 Billion in Revenue By 2025

Intrepid Group  CEO James Thornton has declared the company is aiming to triple its revenue to $1 billion by 2025, becoming the world’s first adventure travel business to breach that lofty benchmark.

Thornton, pictured, said Intrepid Group revenue has grown 20% per annum in the two years since it returned to private ownership and recently confirmed annual revenue in excess of $300 million, meaning that to reach the $1 billion goal, Intrepid will have to double present growth rates to more than 40% a year. More 

Huge Airbus, Boeing Orders Jet Propelled by Budget Carriers

Airbus has landed one of the biggest aircraft orders in history – 430 jets from from a group of low cost carriers, all connected to private equity group Indigo Partners. The airlines combined to get a better deal on the A320neo aircraft. Normally the jets would be worth almost US$50 billion but the group buy could cut 50% from the listed price. Meanwhile Boeing announced that Flydubai has agreed to buy up to 225 of its 737 Max aircraft, potentially worth US$27 billion.

TripAdvisor Tanking, More Visitors, Less Bookings

TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer still optimistic.

How the mighty have fallen. TripAdvisor is now in deep trouble with its transition to a hotel search and booking site going backwards.

Of major concern is that the steps taken by TripAdvisor’s leadership to turn its hotel business around – “a fresh new look”,  “streamlined hotel shopping experience” and  increased brand advertising – have actually accelerated the decline. More 

Best Western Australasia Enters Economy Market, Launches SureStay in Australia and New Zealand

November 2, 2017: Best Western Australasia (BWA) today confirmed that SureStay, its new ‘white label’ economy hotel brand, is coming to Australia and New Zealand.

Head of Commercial Steve Richards says fruitful discussions are under way with a number of hotels and anticipates the first property will go live in early 2018 with others to follow. More 

Odysseus sets sail with Crystal & Uniworld – Now Live & Bookable

October 6, 2017: Odysseus Solutions today announced that luxury operator Crystal Cruises and river specialist Uniworld have become the latest major cruise lines to offer live booking through its industry-leading distribution and booking platform.

Crystal Cruises, Crystal Yacht, Crystal River, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and U by Uniworld are now connecting direct to Odysseus through an API, giving distribution partners immediate access to their products. More 

Political Crisis Fuels Demand For Canberra Hotels While Perth Tanks

A government in disarray has proved to be good business for Canberra hotels as lobbyists and politicians flock to the nation’s capital for reasons that still remain unclear. Consequently, Canberra has emerged as Australia’s most improved accommodation market with revenue per available room room increasing by almost 12% in the year to September 30, according to Savills Hotels. More 

Money On Tap For Tours & Activities – GetYourGuide Gets $75m

GetYourGuide has raised $US75 million just days after Asian tours  & activities rival Klook picked up $US60 million in a frenzy of fund-raising for the sector, which is clearly the hottest in travel from an investor perspective right now.  

“We are experiencing explosive growth this year and have stepped up to become the largest online booking platform for travel activities,” claimed Johannes Reck, CEO of GetYourGuide.

Reck says GetYourGuide, based in Berlin and strongest in Europe, recently breached the 10 million bookings mark, with almost 5 million bookings in 2017 alone. More 

Airbnb Takes The Donald Trump Approach Down Under

Brent Thomas, Airbnb

Airbnb is doing a Donald Trump Down Under – insulting, alienating and potentially making enemies of the people it should be working closely with simply because it can’t get what it wants.

The highlight so far has been the attack on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian by Brent Thomas, the Head of Public Policy at Airbnb in Australia, who should be smoothing the way in the halls of power. More 

Tours and Activities App Klook Raises US$60 Million to Globalise

Klook founders Eric Gnock Fah (left) and Ethan Lin.

The phenomenal growth of Asian tours and activities booking platform Klook has hit warp speed with the Hong Kong company raising a further US$60 million to fund global expansion and product innovation.

Currently generating more than one million bookings a month, the vast majority through its mobile app, Klook has raised almost US$100 million – including US$30 million from Sequoia Capital China just eight months ago – since it was founded in 2014 by Ethan Lin and Eric Gnock Fah. More 

Hotel tech company Zuzu Hospitality Solutions Raises US$2 million

Dan Lynn and Vikram Malhi, co-founders of Zuzu

Hotel tech company Zuzu Hospitality Solutions has raised US$2 million in seed funding. The money will be primarily invested in its technology platform with a focus on improving revenue and account management functions.

It follows an earlier Angel raising of US$1 million. Zuzu targets independent economy hotels and has 150 clients so far. “Our model is working, now it’s time to grow,” Vikram Malhi, who co-founded Zuzu with Dan Lynn. More 

Surprise Move, Graham Hills Leaves Wego for BeMyGuest

Big news in the small but growing world of indigenous Singapore travel tech – BeMyGuest Labs, flush with recently raised funds, has poached Graham Hills from Wego, making him an offer he couldn’t refuse to become its new Chief Commercial Officer (also his title at Wego). 

BeMyGuest further strengthened its team by making respected Japanese entrepreneur Kei Shibata a board member. Hills, an Australian, joined Wego in 2011 and is best known for building the Indonesian business. He was also Chief Product Officer for a time. More 

South Koran Tourism Goes Into Nuclear Meltdown

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un, keeping an eye on the neighbours. His nuclear tests have scared away tourists.

South Korea’s tourism industry is in deep trouble with the nuclear threat of North Korea hitting visitor numbers hard, especially from the key Chinese market.

Meanwhile,  a hotel building boom has resulted in an incredible 369,000 hotels rooms coming online over the past two years. “Demand is not nearly keeping pace partly due to geopolitical tension in the region,” says industry data company STR. More