RECORD PROFIT FOR ONLINE TRAVEL BOOKER

RECORD PROFIT FOR ONLINE TRAVEL BOOKER

LISTED online travel booker Wotif (ASX:WTF) is helping to shake the Sunshine State's tourism blues after today reporting a record $28.8 million in half-year net profit.

The result exceeded guidance and marks a 14 per cent increase on the corresponding period. It was generated from $596 million in travel transactions breaking another revenue record and representing an 11 per cent increase compared with the six months prior.

The decision to add flight bookings to its offering in 2010 has also proved a winner for the company, with sales reaching $52 million and representing a 23 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Total revenue for the first half was $73.97 million, up 4 per cent on $71.02 million in the corresponding half.

Managing director Robbie Cooke (pictured) says flight booking turnover was particularly impressive, with no concentrated marketing campaign to promote the service.

"It has been a slow build-up and now our flights operation is entering a very exciting phase," he says.

"Bookings for our domestic flights have been strong and the prices are as good you will find elsewhere."

Cooke says the company will continue to work closely with its 20,000 accommodation partners across 66 countries.

The strategy is to increase its footprint in Asia where it now has 180 staff. The company will look to gain traction following the acquisition of Hong Kong-based Asia Web Direct for $34 million in 2008.

Last year the company entered a 50-50 joint venture agreement with Vietnam-based Thien Minh Travel Group.

Cooke says despite the currency woes and a soaring Aussie Dollar, he is optimistic of further growth as the company launches a new venture in the holiday accommodation market.

"Currency impacts have been difficult to navigate over the last two years and it has influenced travel behaviours, but I am happy with our January figures and we will continue to find value in domestic leisure where we anticipate an increase in numbers."

Wotif sold one in every 10 Australian hotel beds slept in for the half year ending December 2011 and was again ranked as the No.1 Travel - Destinational and Accommodation site in Australia for the eighth consecutive year by independent ratings agency Hitwise.

Wotif declared a fully-franked interim dividend of 11.5 cents, up 21 per cent.

Today WTF shares increased 12.5 per cent to trade at around $4.60 per unit.

Read more on Wotif's 2012 strategy in the annual Brisbane Top Companies edition of Brisbane Business News out in March at a newsagent near you.

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