Skift Take

Despite talk of economic uncertainly going on two years, Booking Holdings' results – and forecast – indicate travelers still aren't slowing down.

Booking Holdings said it completed a record number of bookings last quarter, the start to what’s expected to be its best summer ever. 

The online travel company completed $39.7 billion worth of bookings last quarter, a 15% increase from the year before, said CEO Glenn Fogel during an earnings call Thursday evening. 

Booking Holdings owns online travel booking sites Booking.com, Priceline, Kayak, Agoda, OpenTable, and others.

Gross bookings and hotel bookings both came in ahead of what the company had expected. And Fogel estimates that room bookings in July were 20% more than what was completed in July 2022.

The record numbers last quarter led to to an adjusted EBITDA of about $1.8 billion, an increase of 64% from a year earlier and about 35% more than what was expected. Total revenues last quarter were $5.5 billion, an increase of 27%. The stock is up nearly 40% this year. 

Booking’s proposed acquisition of eTraveli Group is still on pause, awaiting regulatory review. And the company could soon face restrictions in the European Union if it grows too large, as Skift has reported. 

AI and Tech Investments

Many of the investments Booking Holdings is making around AI and other tech revolves around its long-term vision of the “connected trip.” That means helping the traveler book all aspects of a trip — from flight to hotel and connections in between — easily and in one place. 

“We’ve always envisioned the connected trip as having AI technology at its center,” Fogel said. 

He likened the connected trip progress to building an arch. The company is implementing individual pieces as they are completed, and eventually they will all come together to create the final structure. 

“Over time, you will see incremental improvements and enhancements to our platform that move us another step closer to this long-term vision,” he said.

Fogel added: “We believe that the current travel experience is much more complicated, fragmented and frustrating to travelers than it should be, and eventually our connected trip vision will greatly improve it via technology.” 

Booking Holdings is among the major travel companies experimenting with consumer tools powered by generative AI.

Most recently, Priceline in late June released a chatbot in partnership with Google Cloud’s Generative AI App Builder. Booking.com released its tool a day earlier. Kayak and OpenTable each have released booking plugins accessible through a paid membership in the ChatGPT website. 

“While we are excited by these new advancements at Booking.com and Priceline, it is of course still very early days. And we have much more to learn about how customers will ultimately want to interact with this new technology.”

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Tags: artificial intelligence, booking holdings, booking.com, earnings, kayak, online travel agencies, online travel newsletter, opentable, priceline, travel booking

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