These were the 10 biggest deals in travel in 2018. Were they the smartest decisions? We'll know in a few years. Hospitality-related acquisitions dominated our list; the online travel agencies made some big investments, but were absent as big buyers.
One big takeaway about the 10 largest travel acquisitions of 2018 is that the majority were hospitality-related, and one sector, online travel agencies, that has historically been among the most active, was a no-show.
Within the hospitality sector, it wasn’t just about companies they bought, but also assets or brands that they sold.
So while Minor International acquired NH Hotel Group for $3.1 billion, Wyndham Worldwide bought La Quinta Holdings for $2.68 billion, LVMH announced a $2.6 billion deal to snap up Belmond, and AccorHotels acquired Movenpick Hotels for $565 million, there were also two big asset sales.
In a complex deal that was the largest in travel in 2018, AccorHotels in two phases ceded control of its property unit, AccorInvest Group, to sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms for $5.65 billion. And Wyndham Worldwide off-loaded its European vacation rental division to Platinum Equity for $1.38 billion.
Seven of the largest 10 deals involved European brands or holdings, and one took place in China.
The fifth-largest deal of the year shows the growing influence of sharing economy transportation companies. Beijing-based Meituan Dianping, an e-commerce platform that also offers food delivery and hotels, acquired bike-share company Mobike Technology for $2.47 billion.
Here are the 10 largest publicly disclosed mergers and acquisitions in travel in 2018 by price:
10 Largest Travel Acquisitions of 2018
|AccorInvest Group||Amundi, Colony Capital et al||real estate||May||$5.65 billion*|
|NH Hotel Group||Minor International||hotels||August||$3.1 billion|
|La Quinta Holdings||Wyndham Worldwide||hotels||May||$2.68 billion|
|MobikeTechnology||Meituan Dianping||bike sharing||April||$2.47 billion|
|TravelClick||Amadeus||hotel tech||October||$1.52 billion|
|Wyndham Vacation Rentals Europe||Platinum Equity||vacation rentals||May||$1.38 billion|
|Silversea Cruises||Royal Caribbean Cruises||cruise||July||$1.06 billion**|
|Hogg Robinson||American Express GBT||corporate travel||July||$575 million|
* AccorHotels sold its majority stake in AccorInvest in two deals in May and July, retaining a 35.2 percent stake. The buyers included a variety of sovereign wealth funds and private equity groups.** Royal Caribbean took a majority stake of 66.7 percent in Silversea Cruises, and consolidated its operating results.
Source: Skift, CapitalIQ, public filings
Travel-tech startups often assume online travel agencies such as Booking Holdings, Expedia Group, Ctrip or TripAdvisor; global distribution systems like Amadeus and Sabre, as well as Google, are their most likely buyers one day.
While Amadeus bought hospitality tech firm TravelClick for $1.52 billion, and Sabre bought Farelogix for $360 million, the globe’s major online travel agencies did not make the top 10 deals in 2018. For the most part, their deals, such as Expedia Group buying Pillow and ApartmentJet, were of a smaller variety.
While Booking Holdings bought tour-tech firm FareHarbor for around $250 million and purchased metasearch company HotelsCombined for around $140 million in cash, and TripAdvisor brought activities-tech company Bokun in-house for an undisclosed and smallish sum, none of these deals made the top 10.
There are several reasons why online travel agencies didn’t make the top 10 in 2018. Expedia Group, after having been a serial acquirer in 2015, is bogged down integrating HomeAway, which it bought during that spree. TripAdvisor is seldom prone to make large acquisitions, and neither is Booking Holdings.
But that doesn’t mean that Booking Holdings wasn’t investing substantial sums. Among the deals it did, Booking Holdings invested $500 million in Chinese ridesharing company Didi Chuxing, and $200 million in Southeast Asia’s Grab.
Cruise lines made it into the top 10 with Royal Caribbean acquiring Silversea Cruises by taking a 66.7 percent stake for $1.06 billion.
A corporate travel deal, American Express Global Business Travel acquiring UK-based Hogg Robinson for $575 million, was the seventh largest transaction of the year.
Wyndham and AccorHotels were among the most-active wheeler-dealers in 2018. Wyndham bought La Quinta, and Wyndham also sold its European vacation rental business. In addition to selling its property group, AccorInvest in our top 10 and buying Movenpick Hotels among the 10 biggest deals of the year, AccorHotels also acquired Orbis Hotel Group, 21C Museum Hotels, and Atton Hoteles.
Are the big spenders the smartest companies in their sectors? That remains to be seen: Sometimes not going ahead and doing a deal can be the more intelligent move. After all, many acquisitions fail to live up to their promises.
But these top mergers and acquisitions sure drew headlines — they always do.
Corrections: We initially erred in missing two of the largest deals of the year, Minor International’s acquisition of NH Hotel Group, a deal variously pegged as between $2.7 billion to $3.1 billion, and LVMH’s purchase of Belmond (still pending) for $2.6 billion. We have now included those two in our top 10 and updated the story appropriately.
Photo credit: AccorHotels CEO continued the chain's acquisition spree in 2018, as Accor and hospitality in generally dominated travel deals this year. Fabrice Malard / AccorHotels