Learning to live with Covid, Expedia expects an amazing summer for its Europe business, but is wary of the kind of restrictions that may come back, if at all they do.
Expedia expects an “amazing summer” in Europe while still maintaining caution. Addressing the Skift Forum Europe 2022 in London on Thursday, Ariane Gorin, president of Expedia for Business, in conversation with Dennis Schaal, executive editor at Skift, said the online travel company is witnessing demand coming back.
“People are keen to spend the money that they have saved during the pandemic on travel,” Gorin said. “UK, France and Germany were already back to the pre-pandemic trends of a mix of international versus domestic shoppers. The numbers of U.S. travelers are searching to come to Europe, has also gone up and booking windows are expanding. I think we will be having a great summer.”
Historically, Expedia has been quite strong in the U.S. and with Covid disrupting the interntional long-haul market, the company got stronger in its home market as a lot of its business in Europe and Asia was international long-haul and international short-haul.
Not too concerned about the next variant dampening the summer season, Gorin chanted the “learning to live with Covid” mantra. “The question would be how much friction will there be in travel — what kind of restrictions come back in place, if at all they do.”
Expedia witnessed a 65 percent increase in searches in the UK for the Easter period as countries announced the removal of restrictions, Gorin said.
Being among the first — if not the first in the online world — to announce halting of operations in Russia and Belarus. Some of their competitors took more than a week after to do likewise, Gorin said the company very quickly realized they would stop travel in and out of Russia. “Many of us have job opportunities in Europe and the next step is for us to look at refugees who are getting displaced, what can we do to help place them in jobs.”
With things reverting to a semblance of 2019, Gorin also mentioned the comeback of cities. “During the pandemic, people were mostly travelling to secondary and tertiary destinations, but in our shopping patterns we are now seeing a lot of demand into the cities.”
The company has also witnessed a comeback of business travel. “It’s going to be longer trips — probably a mix of work and pleasure. And as we start to see companies bringing employees back to the office, we will see what the trends show,” Gorin said.
The sale of Egencia to American Express Global Business Travel, while retaining an equity ownership, was dubbed as a “groundbreaking deal” by Gorin. “It’s great for the company because we’re now owners of what’s going to be a really successful corporate travel business and we simplified our company.”
Expedia has also been doing a lot of work in re-platforming its technology stack, said Gorin. “When we do develop things, like our virtual agent, travelers will have better experiences across all of our brands.”
The company will also soon be making an announcement on its customer loyalty program offerings across its portfolio of brands, hinted Gorin.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story had incorrectly quoted Gorin as saying Expedia witnessed a 65 percent increase in bookings for the Easter period.
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Photo credit: Ariane Gorin in conversation with Skift's Dennis Schaal at Skift Forum Europe 2022. Russell Harper Photography / Skift