Off the beaten tour track

TESS MCCLURE
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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For 3-year-old web tourism site Bookme, business has exploded, and the company was recently recognised as the nation's fastest growing information technology business.

It was ranked 18th in the Deloitte Asia Pacific Tech Fast 500, an index which judges the fastest growing IT companies in the region by revenue growth over the past three years.

Bookme, which sells discounted offers on tourism activities, has had growth of over 1300 per cent.

Co-founder Nick Reekie, of Darfield, attributed the growth to having a unique product, "foolproof" online presence and strong word-of-mouth marketing.

The site was "like grabaseat for tourism," Reekie said, and allowed local tourism operators to list discounted offers on activities like rafting, horse-trekking and jet-boating.

It was launched by Reekie and his business partner, director James Alder, in 2010, despite lower tourist numbers in the area following the first of the Christchurch earthquakes.

"We quit our jobs, went home and told our families we were putting our salaries to setting something up, when everyone said there was no tourism. But we believed in the model and believed we were right," Reekie said.

The team waited three days before its first booking came in. Reekie said for the first six months business was steady, but "not blowing your hair back".

As word spread, however, growth accelerated, and revenue began doubling every three to four months.

Reekie believes the site's concept is unique in the world. For business clients, the key point of difference was allowing operators to manage their own inventories: adding additional discounted offers when they had a surplus to sell, or returning to full price when demand was high.

"That allows you to have a system that's the same as these big corporates, but we've made it accessible to the average small business who can't afford to do that themselves."

As well as attractions in key tourist centres, Bookme tries to cover smaller and more rural areas, and support small scale businesses "off the beaten track".

"We try and get people to spread out and get a real taste of New Zealand and all it has to offer," Reekie said.

The business employs a team of six, based around New Zealand, and has recently expanded into Australia.

On the recent recognition by Deloitte, Reekie said he was "very excited".

"It's great to wake up one morning and be given that accolade and know that the growth is real."

While pleased with the recognition, Reekie said, "We're not celebrating too much. We're just peddling like hell.

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"It's hair-on-fire exciting. I'm stunned at how it's going."

Deloitte private partner Stephen Nicholas said the fact that Kiwi businesses made up over 15 per cent of companies in the top 100 was evidence New Zealand businesses had moved into the upper echelon of fast-growing technology firms in the highly competitive Asia-Pacific region.

"These results clearly show that despite the relatively small New Zealand market, hard-working innovative Kiwi firms have been able to outperform companies from many larger countries," Nicholas said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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