Wotif has appointed Scott Blume as chief executive. Photo: Glenn Hunt
ONLINE travel company Wotif has signalled its intention to beef up its presence in Asia after naming Scott Blume, an executive with much experience in the region, as its new chief executive.
Speaking from Jakarta, Mr Blume said e-commerce had only recently started to emerge in some Asian markets because people were previously uncomfortable booking over the internet or did not have the means to do so.
''Obviously, part of the reason I am involved [at Wotif] is because, long term, there are still significant growth opportunities in Asia,'' he said. ''We will look at all opportunities to continue to develop the brands in Australia [but] if opportunities emerge in Asia, with my background, I will be able to explore those as well.''
Wotif has been using the AsiaWebDirect brand in the region as it seeks to reduce its reliance on the domestic Australian travel market. Mr Blume replaces Robbie Cooke, who announced in September that he was leaving Wotif to become chief executive at gaming and lotteries operator Tatts.
The departure of Mr Cooke, who has been CEO at Wotif since 2007, was seen as a blow for the online travel company, which has faced challenges from a strong dollar and cheap air fares encouraging Australians to travel overseas. Wotif makes the bulk of its earnings from domestic bookings.
BBY analyst Mark McDonnell said Mr Blume would be well attuned to the business, given his industry background, and his appointment was consistent with Wotif's desire to increase its presence in Asia.
But he emphasised the challenges faced by Wotif were not solved simply by appointing a new CEO.
Once he takes the reins early next month, Mr Blume will spend the first few months formulating a plan to decide where Wotif's biggest growth potential lies.
He said he believed there was potential to grow all Wotif's brands because consumers were still shifting to online devices such as smartphones or tablets. Its other brands include lastminute.com, travel.com and latestays.com.
Mr Blume has spent 10 years working in Singapore, India and Indonesia, which has included time as president of online travel agency Travelocity and chief executive of Zuji. His latest role has been as chief executive of the Indonesian online hotel company RKI Group.
Before working in Asia, Mr Blume was chief executive of the ASX-listed ITG Ltd and a managing director of Carlson Wagonlit. He also worked at Flight Centre and Traveland.
Wotif also announced the appointment of David Do, a businessman with ''significant experience in Asia'' in digital commerce, as a non-executive director.