Travel Earnings Show Consumers Spend on Foreign Trips

Earnings reports from the big three online travel companies showed that consumers are willing to swallow higher prices to get their international summer trip.

(Bloomberg) — Earnings reports from the big three online travel companies showed that consumers are willing to swallow higher prices to get their international summer trip. 

Airbnb Inc., Expedia Group Inc., and Booking Holdings Inc. all reported second-quarter results on Thursday, presenting differing pictures of what has generally been billed as a sizzling summer of travel. The common trend among them, though, was higher prices — from flights to hotels and short-term rentals — and a preference for European or Asian vacations.

That benefited Booking, which makes almost 90% of its revenue in Europe. The Norwalk, Connecticut-based company, which owns discount reservation site Priceline and flight aggregator Kayak, reported revenue that increased 27% and total gross bookings up 15%. Average daily rates for accommodations were up about 9 percentage points from a year earlier, the company said. Year-over-year room night growth was up in Asia by more than 40% in the second quarter but slightly down in the US.

“In the long run, people are always going to want to travel,” Chief Executive Officer Glenn Fogel said on Bloomberg TV Friday morning. “And you can basically make an estimate that travel is going to increase faster than GDP.” Fogel expects a “record travel season in the third quarter.”  

Though ticket prices remain high for international routes, travelers seem to still be willing to spend on the overseas experiences they missed out on during the height of the pandemic. For Americans, the strong dollar also makes that trip to Italy look even more appealing. Hot tourist cities are back on bucket lists too, after several summers of vacations spent in more rural, domestic settings. 

Global airlines like United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. raised their annual profit forecasts on strength in international bookings and said they see strong demand continuing into the fall. Marriott International Inc. raised its profit estimates for the rest of 2023, with hotels in Asia and Europe driving revenue growth. At the same time, US domestic-focused carriers like JetBlue and Alaska Air are being forced to slash prices for trips within the US.

Read more: US Airlines Eyeing a Summer Boom Are Slashing Prices Instead

Higher prices are also reflected in lodging prices at Airbnb, where average daily rates have jumped 42% since 2019 to $166 at the end of June. But it’s all about location: Average daily rates were down 1% in North America in the second quarter from a year earlier, while in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, they were up 8%. 

That didn’t seem to deter travelers, who booked 115.1 million nights and experiences on Airbnb in the second quarter, up 11% from already elevated levels last year and Airbnb’s highest second-quarter ever. The high prices also drove Airbnb to its most profitable second quarter ever on a generally accepted accounting principals basis.  

“We actually saw acceleration in total growth on nights booked” from the first quarter to the second in North America, Airbnb Chief Financial Officer Dave Stephenson said in an earnings call Thursday. “So I think that was telling about just the strength and resiliency of the North American consumer, and we continue to see that strength leading into Q3, which is why we’re forecasting further acceleration of nights growth from Q2 into Q3.”

San Francisco-based Airbnb said people were traveling longer distances and that cross-border nights booked were up 16% during the quarter. In particular travel to Asia Pacific grew more than 80% and nights and experiences booked to North America by guests from abroad rose about 20% from a year earlier. Overall consumer demand improved during the second quarter, with nights booked increasing 10% from a year ago in April and 15% year-on-year in June. Airbnb also said more travelers were coming back to cities, its traditional stronghold, with bookings for high-density urban listings up 13%. 

For Expedia, whose platforms include flight reservations, hotel stays, car rentals, activities and vacation rentals, some of the recent travel trends weren’t as beneficial and it reported revenue that missed analysts’ estimates. The shift in consumer demand toward urban markets and shorter stays impacted Expedia’s Vrbo vacation-rental business, said Chief Financial Officer Julie Whalen on an earnings call Thursday. The Seattle-based company makes most of its revenue domestically and doesn’t have the same international reach as Airbnb. “However, given the size and strong growth of our hotel business,” Whalen said, “we were pleased that we were able to deliver record lodging bookings in total.” 

(Corrects language in third paragraph to reflect that room nights booked in Asia rose in the second quarter)

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