Outgoing Jetstar CEO Bruce Buchanan claimed at the launch of the new Qantas Group accommodation site, Hooroo.com, that market leader Wotif.com is failing to keep pace with the modern consumer and losing relevance.
“Wotif still has an amazing market share, but I think like all the other internet sites that have failed to evolve or keep pace with where the market is going, they (risk) slowly reduced share and relevance,” said Mr Buchanan.
“It’s not as if Wotif will die any time soon but it’s critical they maintain the proposition of what consumers want now.”
No surprise that Mr Buchanan believes that proposition is Hooroo.com, an attractive and super-fast accommodation booking website with all the social media bells and whistles.
But the consumer website is only part of the Hooroo story.
Hooroo is also the name of the business designed to take back control of the Qantas Group’s accommodation bookings.
They used to come through Qantas Holidays, a business now owned by the Jetset Travel Group and a shell of its former self.
Mr Buchanan took a new accommodation concept to the Qantas board two years ago and Hooroo is the result.
The first step was to base it in Melbourne, away from the politics of the Qantas HQ in Sydney, and create a new accommodation business from scratch.
A key element has been to individually contract 4500 properties throughout Australia, allowing it total control of inventory and the ability to be a market price leader.
But its beating heart is a built-from-scratch accommodation search and booking engine that was first rolled out as a white label solution on the Jetstar website eight months ago.
It was further refined and recently introduced to the Qantas website, again as a white label.
Hooroo now has a public face with Hooroo.com.
It took the development team, led by Head of Technology John Sullivan, just two months to pull it together.
They used continuous delivery principles, open source software and cloud infrastructure – claiming “the fastest response capability in Australia”.
Mr Sullivan said using cloud rather than physical servers enabled them to build the infrastructure in weeks, not months, for a fraction of the cost.
“Cloud lets us quickly and efficiently create new production environments that scale as user demand increases,” Mr Sullivan said.
“It also allows us to move and backup data across multiple zones, creating a theoretically failsafe system.”
His team also opted for open source software, enabling Hooroo “to benefit from the regular iterative improvements made to that software by a global community of developers.
“This foundation gives us the leading edge technology as it is created and, therefore, a market advantage.”
In terms of marketing, Hooroo.com is relying on social media engagement supplemented by search marketing, in which it will “invest heavily”.