Delta variant causes 'modest pullback,' says Booking Holdings

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Online hotel booking [Credit: Keport/Shutterstock.com]
Compared with 2019, Booking Holdings' Q2 room nights were down 26%. Photo Credit: Keport/Shutterstock

Booking Holdings said second-quarter room nights increased 59% from the first quarter of 2021, with that marked gain driven by stronger results in both Europe and in the U.S., said CEO Glenn Fogel.

"Compared with 2019, Q2 room nights were down 26%, which was significantly better than the 43% decline we previously reported for the month of April and the 54% decline in Q1," Fogel told investors during the company's second-quarter earnings call on Aug. 4, crediting much of the quarter's acceleration to rebounding domestic and international booking trends in Europe.

T0809FREEDOMOFTHESEAS_C_HR [Credit: Royal Caribbean]
The delta 'bump'

The Covid-19 delta variant has had a modest impact on an otherwise very strong pace of bookings, Royal Caribbean Group executives said. 

According to Booking Holdings CFO David Goulden, Europe demonstrated "the greatest level of recovery" for any market in the quarter, achieving slight room night growth versus 2019. 

The European recovery trend was bolstered by continued progress in the U.S., which Goulden called Booking Holdings' "strongest performing" major country for the quarter, as solid gains that initially began in April continued through May and June.

"We expect to be much closer to our 2019 revenue levels in Q3 than we were in Q2, driven by the strong booking improvements we have seen in the last few months," added Fogel.

Still, Fogel expressed some concern over the recent spread of Covid's delta variant, which led to what he described as a "modest pullback" in booking trends for the month of July relative to June.

Goulden reported that July room nights were down around 22% compared to 2019, versus a 13% decline in June compared with 2019. He said the dip was due in part to softening booking trends in Germany, France and Italy. He remained encouraged, however, that Booking Holdings' gross bookings for the remaining summer period in Europe exceeds 2019.

Covid theater?

In his From the Window Seat column, Arnie Weissmann writes that his phone is filling up with QR codes with proof of negative Covid tests, and none have yet to be scanned.

Meanwhile, Fogel touted the steady growth of Booking.com's accommodations inventory, which as of June 30 totaled more than 28 million reported listings. Notably, around 6.6 million of those listings were for alternative accommodations, which has continued to be an expansion focus for the brand in the U.S., as well as in Europe. 

"Our alternative accommodation  in Europe was strong in the quarter and represented an increasing share of our European accommodation business," said Fogel. 

"In alternative accommodations in the U.S., Booking.com continued to add targeted new properties," he added. "All of these are positive early developments, and we recognize there is much work ahead to improve and grow our alternative accommodation products in the U.S. market."

For the second quarter, Booking Holdings reported total revenue of $2.2 billion, a 243% increase on the same quarter last year. The company posted a net loss of $167 million in the second quarter of 2021, compared with net income of $122 million for the same period in 2020.

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