Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tour Operators

Tours and Activities Companies Launch Standards Association

1 week ago

Nearly three dozen tours and activities operators, reservation systems, and distributors debuted a non-profit association geared to formulate connectivity standards.

Source: Reuters

The 501c3 association, Open Connectivity for Tours, Activities & Attractions intends to promote an open source specification “to enable reservation and ticketing system providers and tour, activity and attraction ticket sellers to connect their systems for more efficient distribution,” the group announced Tuesday.

Founding members of the group include Arival, Checkfront, Gateway Ticketing Systems, Go City, Holibob, Peek, Tiqets, TUI Musement, Ventrata, Xola and Zaui.

Several major booking platforms, including Viator, GetYourGuide, Klook, Booking.com and Expedia weren’t part of the launch announcement.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb to Kickstart Experiences After 2-Year Pause

2 weeks ago

Airbnb mothballed its experiences business — and ceased investing in hotels — at the beginning of the pandemic, but CEO Brian Chesky said earlier this week that Airbnb will begin to invest in its experiences business again in 2023 after a two-year pause.

A file photo of an Airbnb host greeting participants in a bread-baking experience. Source: Airbnb

“It’s ready to invest like significantly in this business again,” he said.

Trotting out another e-commerce buzzword after discussing funnels, namely “flywheels,” Chesky argued that Airbnb’s homes and experiences businesses would invigorate each other.

“We have some really exciting things in the roadmap,” Chesky said, including for 2023. “And I think that experience is a great flywheel for homes because, again, the number one thing in travel is you want to have direct traffic, booking something unique that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Booking.com: Attractions Won’t Be a ‘Huge Money Spinner’

Booking Holdings Chief Financial Officer David Goulden, speaking at an Evercore technology conference September 8, noted that the company transitioned from a “homegrown acquisition strategy” for tours and activities — when it acquired Fareharbor in 2018 — to a partnerships model, such as through deals with TUI Musement and Viator.

He added that the market size and transaction values for attractions are not as substantial as for accommodations or flights.

“So I don’t think it will be a huge money spinner for us, but it’s certainly something that will create, I think, a lot of value for our customers, therefore, something we want to continue to focus on,” Goulden said.

Online Travel

FareHarbor Acting CEO Ted Clements to Step Down

4 weeks ago

Ted Clements, FareHarbor’s acting CEO who served as chief operating officer for the last three years, will step down from these positions in September, Skift has learned.

A small group tour of the Vatican. Source: Viator

Staff was informed of the move Tuesday, and no replacement has been named. Clements plans to stay in Amsterdam, headquarters for sister company Booking.com, and may pursue new opportunities, according to the announcement.

Rob Ransom, senior vice president, global strategy and business development for Booking Holdings, made the internal announcement, and said he would play a more active role in FareHarbor.

FareHarbor more than doubled its revenue during the years Clements served as chief operating officer, according to the announcement.

Tours and activities are key to Booking Holdings’ connected trip strategy, which aims to provide a hassle-free travel experience throughout the journey.

Booking Holdings acquired FareHarbor, a tours and activities technology and distribution platform, in 2018 for $139 milliion net of cash acquired and $110 million in stock.

FareHarbor co-founders Lawrence Hester and brother Zachary Hester left Booking Holdings in July 2021. Max Valverde, who served as FareHarbor CEO from 2019 to 2021, likewise left Booking at that time.

FareHarbor’s strategy has evolved over the last few years, evolving from an exclusively build-your-own strategy model in the early days under Booking Holdings to include FareHarbor outsourcing some of that work to partners such as TUI’s Musement and Viator in recent years.

The changing of the guard at FareHarbor comes as Google is getting more aggressive in building its own “things to do” business with an emphasis on big attractions. Booking engines such as FareHarbor and Peek participate in Google’s offering.

Watch out for updates.

Travel Booking

Citi Is Developing a Travel Platform with Booking.com

1 month ago

Financial services firm Citi is launching Citi Travel later this year. The travel booking platform will be powered by Booking.com and its Rocket Travel subsidiary.

The portal is set to replace its existing City Thank You Travel Center website, and will offer hotel, air, and car hire options.

“Leveraging the scale and range of Booking.com, the new Citi Travel provides an unmatched breadth of hotel reservation options,” the companies said in a joint statement. “With more than 1.4 million hotels available worldwide — ranging from boutiques to beloved chains — there is the right option for every budget, vacation type and preference.”

Banks are continuing to develop travel products to gain more loyalty from their customers, giving them more options to spend their points. Capital One has recently invested in Hopper as well as private jet startup Aero.

Earlier this year, JP Morgan bought luxury travel agency Frosch, while in Nov. 2021, U.S. Bancorp acquired Will Smith-Backed TravelBank for $200 million.

Online Travel

Google Travel Grabs Larger Share of U.S. Desktop Traffic During Pandemic

2 months ago

Google Travel’s flight and hotel offerings gained the most desktop traffic market share in the U.S. during the pandemic while Tripadvisor lost the most on a percentage basis, according to Similarweb’s June data.

“Google Travel now owns one-fourth of all (U.S.) desktop visits to top travel sites,” Similarweb said.

Similarweb

In its earnings call about second quarter financials Tuesday, Google said travel and retail were the drivers of its advertising revenue during the period.

The following chart shows Google Travel’s U.S. desktop market share increased 6 percentage points to 24 percent in the first half of 2022 compared to the first half of pre-pandemic 2019.

U.S. Desktop Market Share Traffic Gains/Losses H1 2019 Versus H1 2022

Site20192022
Google Travel18%24%
Booking.com14%16%
Airbnb14%15%
Expedia13%13%
Southwest6%6%
Vrbo4%6%
Marriott5%5%
Delta8%4%
TripAdvisor9%4%

Source: Simillarweb

“Booking has also gained 2 percentage points of share in the U.S., and only Kayak (-1 percentage point), Delta (-4 percentage points), and TripAdvisor (-5 percentage points) have lost share,” Similarweb said.

There are two points to keep in mind: These numbers don’t include traffic from mobile devices, and traffic to Google Travel often gets sent along to online travel agency advertisers.

Online Travel

Booking Holdings Faces a Challenge Because of the Euro’s Fall

3 months ago

Much of the attention regarding the euro’s historic fall has focused on Americans getting cheaper vacations in Europe — and the converse for EU residents — but the euro’s reaching parity with the U.S. dollar obviously has business consequences too — and Booking Holdings will likely have to deal with a material adverse impact.

In a research note Wednesday, Jake Fuller of BTIG wrote that he expects an “11 point headwind” to Booking’s growth in bookings in second quarter results and through the rest of 2022 because of volatility in the euro and British pound.

Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport source reuters
Passengers of a flight from Amsterdam wearing protective face masks arrive at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, following the easing of measures against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Athens, Greece, June 15, 2020. Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis

BTIG estimated that Booking Holdings generates about 55 percent of its bookings in Europe. The company doesn’t break out the percentage. “Within Europe, we assume an 85-15 split between the euro and British pound,” the note said.

Booking Holdings’ exposure to the euro “is likely material, should impact the 3Q guide, and does not appear to be reflected in consensus numbers for the year,” the research note added.

Geography has played a major role in how various online travel agencies fared during the pandemic.

Expedia Group benefited throughout much of the pandemic when the U.S. domestic travel market boomed, particularly for stays in vacation rentals.

On the other hand, Booking Holdings suffered because Europe was slower to rid itself of lockdowns than the U.S., and now Booking has to cope with the euro falling to a low it hasn’t seen in two decades.

From a variety of reports, Booking Holdings appeared to be gaining market share in June, but the euro crisis could blunt some of the progress.

Online Travel

Charts: Big 3 Online Travel Companies Finish the First Half at 52-Week Stock Price Lows

3 months ago

Stubborn inflation and fears of recession pushed Airbnb, Booking Holdings, and Expedia Group toward marking 52-week stock price lows on Thursday, the last day of the second quarter, as seen in three charts below.

An Airbnb in Milan, Italy. Airbnb
Yahoo Finance
Yahoo Finance
Yahoo Finance

Airbnb, Expedia and Booking Holdings weren’t alone in their respective plunges, however. The Nasdaq Composite Index likewise was trading at a 52-week low.

These companies’ market caps were smallish compared with better times: Booking Holdings ($71.8 billion), Airbnb ($58 billion), and Expedia Group ($14.8 billion).

Many analysts had written off Booking Holdings as a fading also-ran after the blockbuster Airbnb IPO, but its market cap was considerably higher than Airbnb’s today, the end of the first half of the financial year.

Yahoo Finance

We reported Wednesday that traffic and bookings for the trio were soft in June as compared with June 2019, and this could be a sign of a less-robust summer travel season than what many had predicted.

SimilarWeb found that hotels and vacation rental sites took share from online travel agencies like Booking.com and Expedia.com in the first half of 2022.

Online Travel

Are Uncool Things Like Hotels and Booking.com Making a Comeback at Airbnb’s Expense?

4 months ago

Just look at their market caps — Booking Holdings $92.05 billion and Airbnb a humbling $77.8 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Booking’s share price has notched “single-digit gains” over the last six months, while “Airbnb’s shares have lost nearly a third of their value.”

Reporter Laura Forman attributes some of the discrepancy to the comeback and relative affordability of urban hotels versus soaring rates for short-term rentals.

Not to mention, we’d point out, seeming out-of-control cleaning fees with little rationale for the heft of the cost.

Airbnb’s average daily rates climbed 37 percent in the first quarter when measured against the first quarter of pre-pandemic 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing STR data, the story said average rates for urban hotels around the world in April haven’t yet inched back to pre-Covid levels, while the average price of a room night for hotels as a whole has risen less than 15 percent in April compared to the same period three years ago.

Of course, as the story notes, Airbnb has the brand advantage over Booking.com as Airbnb spent less than a quarter of its revenue on sales and marketing in the first quarter of 2022 while Booking shelled out more than half its revenue on sales, marketing and related expenses.

Still, there’s a reason that Booking.com spends so much on performance marketing on Google even as Airbnb has reduced the percentage of revenue it spends on marketing on Google and elsewhere since 2020. The reason Booking.com spends so much? It seemingly is working.

The Wall Street Journal cited Sensor Tower data tallying Booking.com’s app installs in April as being 13 percent higher than in January 2020 while Airbnb’s app downloads fell 12 percent in the same timeframe.

“Ironically, Booking has managed to reinvigorate interest in its namesake brand this year by promoting its tired image,” the Wall Street Journal said. “A Super Bowl commercial for Booking.com featured The Wire star Idris Elba mocking the brand as having ‘never been accused of being sexy, flash or lit,’ unless, he adds, ‘we’re talking literal.'”

We’re unsure how much weight to give to Booking’s Super Bowl ad — which seemed to underwhelm — in its app download number uplift.

The signs of life in Booking’s stock price compared with six months ago has a lot to do with the comeback of cities, the reopening of Europe, where Amsterdam-based Booking.com has most of its strength, and the relative affordability of hotels.

After all, while some people wrote off cities during the pandemic as being permanently scarred, Booking’s Glenn Fogel argued — as did Peter Kern of Expedia Group and Steve Kaufer of Tripadvisor — that urban hotels and cities would be back. It appears as though that’s starting to take shape.

Filters

Tags

booking-com

Clear Filters