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Sonder Ups Its Bets on Hotels

Skift Take

What’s common between Vacasa, Sonder and Inspirato? They’re still turning in losses, cutting average daily rates, and pruning portfolios. 

Happy hump day, folks! Not too many people care about cricket in the world, but my part of the world has been biting its nails during this men’s world cup. India is making it hard to not cheer for it. 

Alright, before I get distracted, let’s get to it.

On the itinerary today:

  • Sonder earnings
  • Platforms share data with UK government
  • Airbnb’s new acquisition

Sonder’s Bet on Hotels

What’s common between Vacasa, Sonder and Inspirato? They’re still turning in losses, cutting average daily rates, and pruning portfolios. 

But here’s what struck me about Sonder: Its focus on hotels. 

It may not be a full 360 from apartment rentals, but Sonder is diversifying its portfolio and hedging against the softening demand in short-term rentals, particularly in North America.

While it claims that it has narrowed losses and cut costs, sales and marketing expenses remain high and total costs and operating expenses increased by 17% year-over-year to $218 million. 

In its third-quarter earnings report on Tuesday, the San Francisco based company said that hotels now make up for 40% of the total active units in its portfolio, compared to 30% a year ago. Its hotel product grew revenue per available room (RevPAR) by 8%, while RevPAR for its apartment product grew by 1%.

The company launched its first hotel collection in July this year and by October this year, the company launched three new properties in Southern California — and they are all hotels.

“We continue to see relative strength in our hotel product and moderate pricing pressure for our apartment product,” Davidson said in an investor call Tuesday. “This bifurcation is representative of the market trends with hotel RevPAR growing year-on-year, but alternative accommodation RevPAR decreasing across our geographies, particularly in North America.”

Its third quarter earnings at a glance:

  • Revenue grew 29% year-over-year, to $161 million 
  • A 2% decline in ADR to $185, a 
  • A 1% decline in occupancy rates to 83%.
  • Total costs and operating expenses increased by 17% year-over-year to $218 million, 
  • Sonder has $207 million in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and $197 million in total debt.
  • The company narrowed its losses from $74 million the previous year to $64 million

Airbnb Goes Shopping

Airbnb has acquired a stealth AI startup — GamePlanner.AI — a 12-person AI company founded by the creator of Siri, Adam Cheyer. 

Airbnb did not share the acquisition price or terms of the deal, but CNBC valued the deal at “just under $200 million.” The plan is for the GamePlanner.AI team to focus on accelerating certain AI projects at Airbnb and will integrate their tools into the platform.

“A big part of what attracted us to Airbnb was our shared commitment to using AI to enable human connection,” Cheyer said in a statement. “Like Brian, I believe that without great design and community-based intelligence, AI can only achieve a fraction of its potential. But with them, the sky’s the limit. The Airbnb team understands this better than anyone.”

Airbnb Acquires AI Company Led by a Siri Creator

Look It Up

This may be no indicator of financial or business performance, but newly dropped statistics from data aggregation firm Similarweb, show that world wide web traffic to Airbnb was down 6.6% in October and 7% down in the U.S. Vrbo was caught in a similar downturn, with October traffic down 10.3% worldwide and 12.9% in the U.S.

But it’s also interesting to note that web traffic to the section of the airbnb.com website for hosts was up 49% year-over-year in October. Meanwhile, web traffic to data firm AirDNA’s website grew more than 260% in the last five years. 

Lodgify Gets Chief AI Officer

Lodgify, a software solution for vacation rental owners,  promoted co-founder and chief technology officer Marco De Gregorio to its first chief AI officer. In this new role, De Gregorio with a team of machine learning engineers will spearhead the integration of artificial intelligence within multiple aspects of the business. 

Lodgify appointed Marco Cupidi  as its new chief technology officer. In his previous role, Cupidi was the engineering Director of Adevinta, an classified ads marketplace in Europe, where he was responsible for building the framework for data analysis and technical decision-making for its global market portfolio.

Airbnb, Vrbo and Expedia Share Data with UK Government

Airbnb, Booking.com, and Expedia Group have agreed to share data with the UK’s Office for National Statistics by spring 2024. 

  • What data: aggregated and anonymized information on the number of guests and nights booked. 
  • When will it be shared: quarterly with the goal of helping regulators establish the right policies for short-term rentals. 
  • What’s the purpose? To help authorities learn more about their local economies, labor force and housing issues.

Airbnb, Booking, Expedia to Share Data With the UK Government

Unlock the door to short-term rental insights.
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Sonder Ups Its Bets on Hotels

Sonder CEO Francis Davidson on stage with Skift Director of Research Seth Borko at the Skift Short-Term Rental Summit on June 7, 2023.

Skift Take

Sonder's latest strategy: focus on hotels

Sonder is sharpening the focus on its hotel business and adding more units while managing its portfolio of apartments. 

In its third-quarter earnings report on Tuesday, the San Francisco based company said that hotels now make up for 40% of the total units in its portfolio, compared to 30% a year ago.

The company launched its first hotel collection in July, and at the time, CEO Francis Davidson said he sees the brand Powered by Sonder, consisting of 23 independent hotels in around a dozen markets, as a “vast, vast opportunity,” particularly in major European cities. 

In the third quarter, Sonder’s hotel product grew revenue per available room (RevPAR) by 8%, while RevPAR for its apartment product grew by 1%.

“We continue to see relative strength in our hotel product and moderate pricing pressure for our apartment product,” Davidson said in an investor call Tuesday. “This bifurcation is representative of the market trends with hotel RevPAR growing year-on-year, but alternative accommodation RevPAR decreasing across our geographies, particularly in North America.”

Pruning Portfolios

This has been a common theme among short-term rental operators and companies: pruning portfolios for optimal performance. We saw Inspirato and Vacasa do the same this earnings season. 

Davidson said Sonder will focus on getting contracted properties up and running instead of scouting for new ones. “We’re collaborating with external advisers to implement a portfolio optimization program, and working to understand how we can mitigate losses related to these underperforming properties,” Davidson said. 

Sonder grew its live units 30% compared to the previous year. 

Pricing Power

A focus on profitability entails not only making the necessary cuts, but also with right revenue management, determined by average daily rates (ADRs).

Davidson said that while Sonder has room for improvement on this front, its tweaked pricing strategy should show results in the coming quarters. 

What’s new: reducing ADRs farther away from the targeted dates to build a better base of occupancy rather than dropping prices 7-14 days prior to the booking window.

“We leaned into a pricing strategy that focuses on building a better base of occupancy earlier in the booking window and enables us to have greater pricing power over the rest,” Davidson said. “Holding the price as we approach the date of arrival is actually a better strategy to drive stronger ADRs and stronger RevPAR,” he said. 

Numbers Game

Here are the numerical highlights:

  • Revenue grew 29% year-over-year, to $161 million 
  • A 2% decline in ADR to $185, a 
  • A 1% decline in occupancy rates to 83%.
  • Total costs and operating expenses increased by 17% year-over-year to $218 million, 
  • Sonder has $207 million in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and $197 million in total debt.
  • The company narrowed its losses from $74 million the previous year to $64 million

Accommodations Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of hotels and short-term rental sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets, including international and regional hotel brands, hotel REITs, hotel management companies, alternative accommodations, and timeshares.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more hotels and short-term rental financial sector performance.

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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Tags: earnings, future of lodging, sonder, vacation rentals

Photo credit: Sonder CEO Francis Davidson on stage with Skift Director of Research Seth Borko at the Skift Short-Term Rental Summit on June 7, 2023. Ryan Bourque

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