Skift Take

Sometimes CEO views of where online travel is headed seem more about the capabilities of their companies than anything else. Will pandemic-induced travel preferences make for dominant trends five or 10 years from now? Highly doubtful.

Series: Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Executive Editor and online travel rockstar Dennis Schaal will bring readers exclusive reporting and insight into the business of online travel and digital booking, and how this sector has an impact across the travel industry.

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The heads of two of the largest U.S.-based online travel companies, Brian Chesky of Airbnb and Peter Kern of Expedia Group, have gazed into their crystal balls and conjured clashing visions about the future of travel. Kern argued last week during an earnings call that “travel is like water, it finds its way.” If travelers can’t fly internationally, they’ll drive domestically, and choose short-term rentals if they consider hotels unappealing, Kern said, adding that Expedia hasn’t found anything to indicate “there’s a long-term behavioral change” that would grow out of Covid-19. Kern recalled that after 9/11, pundits predicted that travel would change “forever” and New Yorkers would abandon New York City in droves, but that didn’t happen. “I am not one to believe that anything about what we're going through will be permanent,” Kern said.

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Booking Holdings and Tripadvisor executives have made similar statements about travel eventually settling down, and coming to resemble its former self. Airbnb’s Chesky, conversely, has contended that travel will never, ever go back to the way it was pre-Covid.” Chesky has