Martin Cowley, a former strategic advisor to Helloworld.com.au, has described the now-abandoned Orbitz strategic alliance, which cost $18m over three years, as a “car wreck”.

Mr Cowley, who worked on the site for 10 months from late 2013 to Martin Cowley, Lido GroupAugust 2014, is currently Chairman of Lido Group and on a number of industry boards.

“Andrew Burnes’ web strategy makes sense,” he said in response to Friday’s Travel Trends comment piece, Does Helloworld Really Have A Web Strategy?

“The previous one was a pipe dream- you obviously don’t have insight into the detail of the Orbitz arrangement – which was a car wreck.

“I’m backing Burnes to turn HLO around.”

He added: “To suggest that Burnes is just cutting costs is neither right nor fair. I’d suggest he has barely scraped the surface with that part of his strategy.

“It’s the only way to go. I’ve seen all of the announcements and they are a prudent way to fix this business. He’s dealing with the hand he was dealt.”

Mr Cowley said the new web strategy is “clear as glass”.

“Support and grow the network, improve supplier relations and margins and cut costs.

“Clear as glass and if they do it half as well as Travel Leaders do in the US the shareholders will be very happy indeed!! ”

Certainly it’s clear that Andrew Burnes can only do better than his predecessors, if only because he couldn’t possibly do worse.

He and partner Cinzia also bring a lot to the table with AOT, their inbound and domestic tour company which recently merged with HLO.

Their experience in using market power to get the best rates and commissions possible will undoubtedly lead to better margins, while the power couple are known for running an extremely tight ship cost and staff wise.

However the central point in Does Helloworld Really Have A Web Strategy? relates to detail.

There is none.

The half-year results didn’t outline or breakdown any of the costs incurred by HLO in the course of business.

How much is it spending on marketing, what are staff costs, what is IT spend?

This is basic information many travel market leaders such as Expedia and Flight Centre provide.

But with HLO costs (and communication) have always been opaque no matter who has been in charge.

And nothing has changed there. Same lack of detail with the new web strategy, due to cut over at the end of August.

Questions linger over how much planning has gone into it.

For example, HLO said “from Sept the site will match the available micro-sites for our individual agencies and the commissions from bookings made on the site will be allocated to agencies”…

Presumably if they have a micro-site – what if they don’t?

I’m not waving a flag for one strategy or another, just suggesting from years of experience talking with companies that when they cannot or are unwilling to provide details it’s because there are none to support the big statement that prompted the question.

Especially when that question is really simple. What’s your new platform? “No comment”.

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