Travel.co.nz and its Australian parent travel.com.au are to represent the high-profile UK e-commerce venture lastminute.com in this part of the world.
Travel.com.au has signed a memorandum of understanding with lastminute.com, which offers travel, accomodation, gifts and other lines under the slogan "do something". As the name suggests, it offers last-minute bargains and auctions on what the travel industry calls "distressed inventory".
The UK venture has achieved a high profile thanks in part to the media circus around its founder, 27-year-old Martha Lane Fox. But events since its successful IPO on March 13 have seen the company tagged as a victim of a dot-com backlash. Its stock, which shot up to 550 pence, subsequently fell to around 307 pence, 20% short of the offer price.
The UK company's problem is an inability to make money, but travel.com.au and travel.com.nz's established fulfilment infrastructures - 140 staff in Australia and 100 in New Zealand - could see the proposed joint venture do a better job of lastminute's model than the UK company itself.
Travel.co.nz managing director Greg Southcombe says his company has acquired the domain name lastminute.co.nz from its holder, "just to keep things tidy", but will more likely use an address based on lastminute.com. The domain name is the second one the company has bought from the original registrant - last year it paid more than $50,000 for travel.co.nz.
"How involved with travel.co.nz it will be in New Zealand I'm not sure yet - how we integrate the two remains to be seen," says Southcombe. "But whatever happens it's going to be great for us from a product-buying perspective."
Meanwhile, travel.co.nz's launch yesterday - delayed about a month by technical issues - will kick off a major local marketing campaign based around the branding used successfully by travel.com.au, which acquired the local travel agency Advantage Travel Systems (which traded as Jetsave) last year to turn it into travel.co.nz, using money from its successful IPO on the ASX last year.
The launch will see retail partnerships with both FlyingPig.co.nz and nzoom.com swing into action.
At yesterday's launch, Southcombe said the Web-based system the company has inherited from travel.com.au has driven the cost of sales down so far that his company will give back three quarters of the 4% commission allowed by airlines for national flights as a discount to customers who book online.
The company will launch its corporate business-to-business service in the new few weeks.