Expedia’s rebound in hotel bookings looks good – until you compare it to the number of people flocking to Airbnb

  • Expedia reported growth of 8% in accommodation bookings compared to the same quarter in 2019.
  • This progress looks good until you remember that Airbnb just posted 73% growth over three years.

The pandemic’s late return to travel has obviously been good for companies providing ways to book getaways.

However, the upside, as always, is relative.

Late Thursday, Expedia Group online travel agency reported second-quarter results that beat Wall Street’s quarterly revenue and profit forecasts. While the company’s shares had a rather subdued response in last Friday’s trading, it’s somewhat of a win given that Expedia’s stock has fallen about 50% since February.

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The progress of travel service companies has been difficult to measure since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, with on-the-fly shutdowns, mask mandates, as well as sluggish attitudes towards travel in general.

As a result, many hotel companies are now using 2019 comparisons to try to show how close their operations are to “normal”.

In its earnings report, Expedia said its accommodation bookings grew 8% from the same quarter in 2019 to its highest ever level for Expedia. Given that accommodation revenue accounts for around 75% of Expedia’s overall revenue, this is a sign of movement in the right direction.

But one can’t help but compare Expedia’s lodging performance to the meteoric growth in bookings that Airbnb announced tuesday: The shared home rental company said its revenue and gross booking volume increased 73% from 2019 to its highest level ever. Airbnb also said it improved its profitability in the second quarter, earning $379 million, marking a turnaround of $700 million from the same quarter in 2019.

This comparison is somewhat of a construct, given that Expedia offers a different experience, and is certainly just one of many ways to book traditional hotel stays.

But it also seems hard to argue with this line in Airbnb’s earnings release: “Since the onset of the pandemic, Airbnb has significantly outperformed the rest of the travel industry.”

Given the latest growth figures, this could continue to happen.

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