Despite years of neglect, Lastminute.com.au has proved to be indestructible, the pretty in pink cockroach of Australia’s online travel world.
Now that it’s getting some love in the form of a massive cash injection – albeit by its poverty-stricken standards – what does the future hold?
The man pulling the purse strings, Wotif Group MD Daniel Finch, reckons the still popular site has enormous potential to grow.
“It’s been a great little performer in the portfolio but never really had a great deal of love by way of investment in terms of advertising, marketing and technology,” said Daniel Finch.
“Lastminute has shown it’s unkillable.”
But many have tried through neglect.
The brand was first brought to Australia in the early 2000s by Travel.com.au, then ASX-listed.
It was effectively leased and run separately to big brother Lastminute.com in the UK before TVL acquired it outright in 2007.
At that point the business wasn’t profitable.
“We are at the tipping point with LMA,” said then TVL CEO Adam Johnson.
Soon after in Feb 2008 TVL was bought by Wotif.com for $55m and LMA was part of the deal.
The LMA site and brand remained frozen in time under Wotif’s ownership – no website improvements, no substantive marketing.
It was forever in the shadow of golden child Wotif.com.
But, remarkably, LMA still did well with a loyal, dedicated audience and to this day remains one of Australia’s top accommodation sites.
Meanwhile Wotif.com was bought late last year by Expedia, which moved LMA to its all-powerful tech and distribution platform in April/May.
Now, Mr Finch says, “millions of dollars” will be spent on marketing LMA over the next couple of months.
The campaign is based around the tagline ‘live lastminute’ and urges Australians to ‘Feel it. Book it. Travel.’
“I think based on current performance it deserved some attention and it’s really exciting to see it back in market,” he says.
“We are going to commit some long-term spend, it’s not just a one-off injection.”
He says the site performs “really well well organically” and the customers have been enjoying the new platform.
“They are staying on the site longer and booking more,” he says.
“We’re very very pleased with the numbers and performance we have seen and they are exceeding my initial expectations.”
Mr Finch declined to comment on what those numbers are and whether they’ve increased or decreased since the platform switch.
He says the LMA audience is substantially different to Wotif – they book later, for example.
This something the new campaign will emphasise.
“It’s a website we want to be really relevant and true to the last minute branding.”
He says traffic through the new LMA app and mobile site is surging but that the desktop website remains “extremely” significant in the booking process.
“Looking ahead, we want to become more and more relevant to people when they travel – that’s certainly the area we’ll be focussing on in 2016.”