High end flash sale retailer Jetsetter is celebrating hitting 500,000 room nights since launch and two million people in its database.
That is almost three times the room night count it wasÂ marking in March this year.
At the same time every single one of the large and small online travel agents have launched a flash sale product under brand names like Expedia ASAP and Wotif Wot Deal Day â€“ trying to cut into the success of Jetsetter and regain the “best place to get high end deals” trophy.
With that background I had a chance to sit (ok Skype) down one on one with Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson to hear his views on the company, competitors, the market and plans for expansion.
Look for hints on international expansion, more on mobile and an interesting last answer on TripAvisor. Here is what he had to say
How have you managed to resist the fight back from the mainstream OTAs and pressure from the coupon daily deal sites?
The business has scaled nicely. We worry about all competitors every day, especially with the low barriers to entry. We serve an affluent niche that is well defined. And underserved.
This puts us in a different place to OTAs. As a result I donâ€™t stay up at night worrying that Expedia could crush us.
Are you worried about damage that the group-buying sector may be causing to your business and suppliers?
It bums me out when we are lumped into the same business category as group coupon companies. We have a full-blown inventory system with revenue management and inventory control systems.
We are a very different business to Groupon. There are some similarities in that we are both in business of merchandising but the mechanics and supplier relationships and consumer segments we are going after are very different.
You have been spending a lot of time on both editorial content and user generated content. Tell us how you balance the two?
They are complementary. We believe in the power of an editorial voice, to give a unique point of view that UGC canâ€™t live up to. That is the role of editorial.
At the same time we have and want to promote a vibrant community. To hear their voice. Jetsetter encourages members to post reviews of properties on the site, but are only invited to do so after their trip is completed.
Members can review our professionally written reviews, plus hear what like-minded travellers have to say. TripAdvisor canâ€™t replicate that balance.
Tell us about you expansion plans. You recently launched in the UK and have been quoted as saying that 10-15% of your business is coming from customers outsides the US. Where next?
Looking hard at a couple of opportunities now. Nothing finalised. Good results so far in the UK. 10-15% is still the ball park [for bookings by international customers].
What are your thoughts on mobile. You have launched very content-heavy apps for iPhone and iPad. The mobile web is ten years old yet we have not seen a large flow of bookings. When will mobile become a serious booking channel?
It is still early days [for mobile]. That said, it is now becoming a meaningful part of conversation. We are seeing meaningful activity on the iPhone and iPad.
Mobile is not close to being a web substitute but seems to be growing at higher rate than web traffic.
What do you think is next in the daily deal sector (Groupon/Living Social Escapes)? Collapse? Supplier push back? Does any of it worry you?
We have seen a little bit of that [consolidation] already. BuyWithMe was sold to the Gilt Group. Merchants are starting to wise-up a little bit on how they use group buying. The easy money has been made.
Things will get harder for them [group buying companies].
What other companies do you admire and why (inside or outside travel)?
In the content and commerce space I look to One Kings Lane and Net-A-Porter. I am very interested in businesses bringing together content and commerce. In travel HotelTonight is an interesting format and attracting demand.
Last one – Expedia shareholders have approved the spin off of TripAdvisor. Does your view of TripAdvisor change now that it is returning to being an independent company? Does it worry or interest you?
Itâ€™s of interest far more than it’s a worry. It creates the opportunity to work with TripAdvsor in ways that would have been more difficult when they were owned by Expedia.