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U.S. 'has been leading the travel recovery,' Booking Holdings CEO says

Booking Holdings President & CEO Glenn Fogel joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss travel demand, the state of the travel industry, how inflation is impacting consumers, and the outlook for the travel sector.

Video transcript

[AUDIO LOGO]

RACHELLE AKUFFO: With the Thanksgiving travel rush back at pre-pandemic levels, what can we expect for the travel industry into the new year? well, let's bring in Glenn Fogel, Booking Holdings president and CEO, to discuss this. Welcome to the show.

So obviously a very busy time. A lot of people were-- still have that demand to travel at the moment. What have you been seeing over the holidays, of course with Thanksgiving and your expectations into the new year?

GLENN FOGEL: Well, thanks for having me. It was a very good Thanksgiving travel in the United States. We're a very global company. And obviously Thanksgiving is just US. But travel has been booming. We've just loved this recovery.

The third quarter was wonderful. And it's continued on. And we saw a lot of people over the weekend who were traveling. I was traveling. So I know it's been crowded. But it's just great after this terrible pandemic, people finally getting going. And we're loving it.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, it certainly feels like people are moving beyond domestic travel more into international as well, which is a bit of a change from what we saw at this time a year ago. Where are you seeing the biggest growth right now?

GLENN FOGEL: Well, you're right on that. And it's true. Because of those shutdowns, it was so hard to travel. And the US in particular was being very cautious in letting people come and visit us. But it also made people a little scared to go out of the US because they were afraid, what if I'm not able to get back easily? So it's definitely picked up.

One of the things that I'm really pleased to see is Asia's been slow in the recovery. They've had more trouble getting themselves going. They've had more restrictions. But one of the things we talked about in out earnings call was September was the first month that we had Asia going more than they did in 2019. So we love seeing that and that coming back.

Certainly Europe's been doing well. The US has been leading really. We talked in our third quarter. We had 30-- almost 30% room night growth in the third quarter in the US. And that's-- well, we just love the fact of seeing that going well.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And as the parent of Priceline, Kayak, and also travel-adjacent services like dining with OpenTable, what have you been seeing in terms of sort of these travel-adjacent businesses as well?

GLENN FOGEL: Well, and I think anybody who's trying to get a reservation in a restaurant recognizes that it's pretty crowded. And it's one of the great things about our OpenTable service is people being able to look at a lot of different restaurants, choosing what's available because at a lot of places, there's not a lot of availability. And it's a great way to make sure you have a table to go look at it.

And we see, people want to go out and be with people. What happens is, if you're shut down for two years or so, people just-- once they can go out, they want to go out. And it's something that we have seen-- any time a country opened up in restrictions in this pandemic, we saw people immediately jump at it, whether they wanted to go to restaurants, whether they wanted to get on a plane or go to a hotel. We saw people wanting to do that.

AKIKO FUJITA: Glenn, we've been trying to get a better gauge of the impact inflation has had on any travel plans. We have heard over and over from those within the travel space, whether it's an Airbnb or some of the rival hotel companies, that they haven't necessarily seen a pullback or a cancelation in some of these plans that were set in place for the holidays.

What are you seeing that suggests that maybe those travelers are starting to tighten their wallets a bit? Any headwinds coming from the broader macro environment we're seeing right now?

GLENN FOGEL: Well, we really haven't yet. And we talked about that on our earnings call, how we stall-- people are still traveling. Now, there's no doubt, the prices are a lot higher than they used to be. And we talk about the average daily rate at a hotel for us. And we talked about that it's 28% in the constant currency, looking around the world at different currency changes. That's a big increase. Yet people are buying it.

And if you buy a flight, you recognize, it's more expensive than it was in 2019. But people are definitely still wanting to go and travel.

Now, some people are saying, well, it's a little bit like that old cartoon with Roadrunner where Wile E. Coyote goes off the cliff, and his legs are still going, but he hasn't looked down so he hasn't started to fall yet. People are saying, well, that's what this is with travel. In just a couple-- in a little while, that's going to happen.

I have no idea what's going to happen two months, three months, four months, five months. I do know right now, people are traveling. And we even see what people-- when we look at our forward bookings-- so we can look in-- so let's say the first quarter, and we see, how much business do we have on the books so far? And we compare it to, say, 2019.

And we saw, for booking.com, on a euro basis, up 25% in gross bookings. So there's obviously a lot of demand there.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And Glenn, just quickly because I know you've been talking about travel's role in climate change. And you've recently announced a new program. Talk about that program and what your expectations are.

GLENN FOGEL: Yeah. So look, we recognize that our mission is to help everybody experience the world. But it wouldn't make much sense if there's not a world worth discovering and experiencing. So we want the world-- and we recognize there's a climate issue that we all have to deal with.

We all saw recently at COP27. And we saw what's going on in Egypt. How are we going to deal with this? So we are doing our part. We came out with a travel sustainability program. And we have a thing, a travel badge we give to accommodations that are really doing the right thing, trying to be sustainable.

We have over 400,000 properties now that are part of this at different levels of sustainability. The ones that are the best get the most-- the best bet, so to speak, to make it simple. And what we want to do is make sure every one of the companies in our group is part of this program.

So we have not only booking.com that led it. But we have priceline.com. We have Agoda. We have Kayak. We have everybody who we want to be able to show this sustainability program to make sure that people have an option to try and see which hotels are really the ones who are doing the right thing for sustainability.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: We know it certainly matters to travelers. So we appreciate you doing that. Glenn Fogel there, Bookings Holdings president and CEO, thanks so much.