Blinded By Brand? Helloworld Closes BestFlights.com.au, Loses Revenue, Online Market Share and Goodwill

New retail agency network Helloworld has made the extraordinary decision to close one of Australia’s most popular travel websites, BestFlights.com.au, after CEO Rob Gurney said last year it would be doing no such thing. In the process 40 staff have lost their jobs and Helloworld has dumped a profitable business with estimated turnover of AUD180 million and 2% market share.

What’s the thinking on this? No-one knows.

The decision has not been publicly explained and was quickly followed by the announcement of a CEO for the new flagship site, Helloworld.com.au, which is thin in terms of content and has no consumer traction whatsoever.

Both the industry and analysts have been questioning the decision.

“We think it is a strange move given the brand awareness, level of turnover and profitability of the site,” wrote Armina Soemino of JP Morgan.

“We see it as a major risk for the site to have abandoned this brand for an unproven one.

“We continue to see further adoption of the Helloworld brand as a major risk for the company.

“Furthermore, the clear staff distress and backlash seen in the media may impact the franchisee uptake of the Helloworld brand.”

Ms Soemino wrote that “staff were told multiple times that it intended to run the business in parallel to Helloworld”.

BestFlights.com.au and sister site BestCruises.com.au shut on Feb 1 and all direct traffic channelled to Helloworld.com.au.

Last July, Experian Hitwise ranked BestFlights.com.au as Australia’s 36th most popular site with an estimated 855,000 monthly visits.

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3 thoughts on “Blinded By Brand? Helloworld Closes BestFlights.com.au, Loses Revenue, Online Market Share and Goodwill”

  1. The question should be asked as a shareholder …. The market price of helloworld when they advised Best Flights was staying was more than 12% higher than today … I hope that none of the Senior executives, including the CEO, have traded during this time with inside knowledge of impact to revenues, book value disappearing overnight and suicidal strategies. The fact that they openly lied in public media should be questioned to and by the board.

    They have still not made any announcements to the stock exchange, how they believe shutting down a near $200M profitable business is not material, is total beyond me and just shows the complacency and arrogance of this board and it’s executives.

  2. As off today (6th Feb) the shares are now 29%% lower than they were in December and 20% lower than there were prior to the announcment. So, on top of spending $15M on Boston Consultancy over the past 18 months, the CEO and the Board have wiped further millions of dollars from the market value of the company as a result of the amazing decsion to close Best Flights down. How long can this incompentance be allowed to go on for?

  3. What’s more bestflights.com.au redirects to helloworld ‘Hotel’ search instead of Flight search… Hello!

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