Schedule travel plans now before demand picks up and prices rise: Booking.com CEO
Booking Holdings Inc. reported a better-than-expected surge in room night reservations and expressed optimism that the pace of travel will continue to improve as more people are vaccinated and restrictions are loosened.
While the surge of coronavirus cases linked to the delta variant spurred “a minor pullback” in July from June, “we remain confident that we will see a strong recovery in travel demand globally,” Chief Executive Officer Glenn Fogel said Wednesday in a conference call after the company released second-quarter results.
“Leisure travelers are eager to get back to booking traveling on our platforms,” Fogel said.
Chief Financial Officer David Goulden said Booking expects revenue in the current period to increase “meaningfully” from the second quarter to a level in line with sales before the pandemic.
In the period ended June 30, the number of room-night reservations jumped 458 per cent to 157 million, the first positive year-over-year growth since before the start of the pandemic, the Norwalk, Connecticut-based company said in a statement. A year ago, Booking experienced an unprecedented 87 per cent decline in the quarter due to COVID-19 border closings and lockdowns. Second-quarter reservations, which increased 59 per cent from the previous period, topped the average analyst estimate of 136.3 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Total gross bookings were US$22 billion in the quarter. Revenue more than tripled to US$2.16 billion, the company said. Analysts, on average, projected gross bookings of US$16 billion and sales of US$1.89 billion.
Shares gained about 3.8 per cent in extended trading after closing at US$2,085.64 in New York. The stock has declined 6.4 per cent this year.
Booking is among the long list of travel companies that have been significantly affected by pandemic restrictions. Lockdowns and travel quarantines shuttered hotels, closed restaurants and caused short-term rental booking to plummet for much of the past year. While domestic travel has largely resumed in the U.S. as infections have waned, international travel remains stunted and the delta variant is causing ongoing uncertainty.
“Barring something more significant happening with the delta variant, I wouldn’t expect travel demand behavior to alter all that much unless people are told that they can’t travel,” Dan Wasiolek, an analyst at Morningstar Investment Service, said in an interview before the results were released.
Goulden said Booking saw the greatest growth in Europe followed by the U.S., while Asia continued to be the least-recovered region from the effects of the pandemic.
The online travel agent, formerly known as Priceline, reported an adjusted loss of US$2.55 per share, missing estimates of a loss of US$2.10.