This logo on the left is a relatively recent version of the Wotif.com logo. Two simple things in the logo - the name and the model. Clear indication of what Wotif is all about - "28 days of great deals". But here is a copy of the new logo that has justed started to appear. Can you spot the difference - and I am not referring to the change in colouring. Rumours have been running around for Australia for weeks now that Wotif is going to be abandoning its last mintue model and moving to have inventory available 365 days per year.
When Wotif first launched it was only 14 days out. Then in 2004 they extended to 28 days. Now a couple of months after entering into the full service business with the acquisition of Travel.com.au, Wotif is on the verge of abandoning a big tenet of its brand - last minute deals?
I have been thinking about this for the last few weeks and wondering if this is an indication of a wider trend that I have been watching. I had been noticing that Lastminute.com's hotel growth was coming from its secret hotels, not last minute purchases. I could not help but read about Booking.com's continued growth in Europe - the sense I get (no data to back it) is that there is nothing particularly last minute about this non-stop growth. Other players have been extending their booking windows also. Finally - despite softening in the US economy and high oil prices it is still boom time for hotels. With occupancy rates so high, hoteliers seem less and less interested in seeking help for last minute distribution. Bring these together and it looks like until we see another change industry dynamics there is at the very least a hiatus in the last minute model. But I am not convinced that the model is dead, another shift in demand (read continuing economic downturns) and hotels will look to last minute again and the distribution houses will be right there to pick it up. Meanwhile - look for the Wotif goes 365 press release very soon.
What do you think? Am I right in sensing a movement away from last minute distribution of hotels? If so do you agree that its just due to the economic environment or there a more fundamental shift here.
UPDATE - thanks to a reader that sent through an ASX filed presentation from Wotif. From 8 May this presentation is an update given to brokers. It includes on slides 9 and 31 commentary that 365 day inventory is "in development" and "coming". Also updates on travel.com.au and AsiaWebDirect. You can find a copy here