Expedia Group sees 'some backward movement' as delta takes hold

Despite steady acceleration through the initial part of the second quarter, Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern cautioned that the company saw “some backwards movement” in July, as the delta Covid variant casts uncertainty over the travel landscape.

“In general, [we’ve still had a] relatively stronger performance compared to earlier parts of Covid, [but] I think it’s important to keep in mind that obviously we don’t know where delta is going,” Kern said during the OTA giant’s Q2 earnings call on Thursday. “There’s a lot of unknowns, including in the U.S., and we’re starting to see some of that percolate through cancellation rates and more volatility in the numbers.”

Still, Kern touted what he called “quite strong” progress for the second quarter versus Expedia’s first-quarter performance, citing continued gains in North America, with the U.S., the company’s largest market, proving to be the standout.

Expedia Group CFO Eric Hart credited that progress to a mix of “continued strength” for the company’s Vrbo vacation rental platform, as well as improving trends on the hotel side. ADRs for the second quarter were also up “across the board” on the prior quarter, Hart added.

Meanwhile, with international bookings continuing to lag well behind domestic business, Kern emphasized that vaccination rollouts will play a key role in creating “greater security, greater comfort and greater willingness to travel.”

To that end, Expedia Group has partnered with humanitarian organization Unicef to launch its Give the World a Shot initiative, under which every trip purchased via Expedia Group mobile apps will include a donation toward Unicef’s Covid response efforts, including vaccine distribution, in over 180 countries.

For every eligible booking, Expedia Group will donate $2, with the company pledging a minimum donation of $10 million to Unicef.

“It’s clear that not everyone has the access that the Western world has to vaccines,” said Kern. “But until the world is more fully vaccinated, we really can’t expect travel broadly to be back to normal.”

Expedia Group’s revenue for the quarter totaled $2.11 billion, up 273% on 2020’s second-quarter revenue of $566 million. The company posted a net loss of $169 million for the second quarter, versus a net loss of $577 million for the second quarter of last year.

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