Skift Take

There will be a reckoning and perhaps a reordering of the competitive landscape once the coronavirus crisis fades. Meanwhile, companies such as Expedia Group know they need to have extreme focus to dig out of the mess.

In an internal letter to employees, Expedia Group Vice Chairman Peter Kern told staff to set aside any projects that don’t contribute to meeting the company’s immediate needs and exhorted employees to help travel partners find business anywhere they can.

“If you’re wondering how we might help our travel partners survive all this, well, our travel partners need whatever business they can find,” Kern wrote in a message to employees on Monday that was obtained by Skift. “So if there is travel going on out there, we need to find it and book it for them.”

Although Kern advocates that Expedia staffers find travel to book for the benefit of travel partners, some destinations, such as Florida, are being criticized for not taking stronger action against travel.

Kern’s March 16 letter to employees, along with another one signed by Expedia Group Chairman and senior executive Barry Diller, Kern and the leadership team that went out to employees March 12 are embedded below.

Kern acknowledged the depth of the coronavirus crisis, noting priorities include helping “confused and scared customers who are swamping our call centers,” and assisting travel partners in their quests to survive.

“How do we keep everyone safe?” Kern wrote. “And of course, how do we survive and come out stronger at the end than we were when this crisis started?”

Kern told employees if they are working on anything that can’t be immediately deployed to assist the current effort, then “raise your hand and tell your manager that you can help out elsewhere so we can find a way to use your talents for the greater good.” He emphasized that the company would postpone “our goal-setting exercise this quarter.”

The global economic recovery depends in part “on travel coming back in a real way,” Kern said.

A letter a few days earlier from Diller, Kern and the leadership team, cited “our recent reorganization and all those stresses.” The reorganization, geared to generate up to $500 million in run rate cost reductions in 2020, included layoffs of around 12 percent of the workforce.

Kern and Diller are essentially running Expedia Group’s day-to-day operations after the board pushed out CEO Mark Okerstrom and Chief Financial Officer Alan Pickerill in early December.

“Of course we’ll come out of this, and like any real crisis, we will be the better for it because of what we’ve learned and mastered in the process,” the March 12 letter said. “In the meantime, I hope you know you have the hard rock support of all of us.”

Like most stocks, particularly those in travel, Expedia shares have been hammered. Its shares are down 62 percent in the past month to close Wednesday at $45.65.

Skift Senior Travel Tech Editor Sean O’Neill contributed to this report.

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Tags: coronavirus, expedia, reorganization

Photo credit: With Expedia Group employees and partners in attendance, Good Morning American anchor Robin Roberts interviewed Expedia Group Chairman Barry Diller on stage at the Expedia Explore '19 conference in Las Vegas November 14, 2019. Adam Shane Productions / Expedia Group

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