Travel reservations have plummeted 91% and won’t be back until there’s a vaccine, says Booking Holdings CEO

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John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, before the pandemic hit. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • Booking Holdings, which owns brands including Kayak and Booking.com, saw the worst effects of the pandemic in the second quarter, reporting that gross bookings fell 91%.
  • CEO Glenn Fogel said during the earnings call that a vaccine or effective treatment will be necessary for business to return to normal.
  • The company said it’s expecting a high level of uncertainty for the next several quarters, as it’s unclear how comfortable people will be to travel as the pandemic continues.
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The travel industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

And, industry leaders are not expecting that to change anytime soon.

In its quarterly earnings call on Thursday, Booking Holdings, the company that operates Kayak, Priceline, Booking.com, Rentalcars.com, OpenTable, and Agoda, predicted that it would take a widely available vaccine for business to be back to how it was before the pandemic hit.

“We continue to believe that in order to recover to pre-COVID levels, we will need to have a vaccine or effective treatment, which will take time to produce and distribute globally at the scale needed. We are pleased to have recently read news about progress on this front,” CEO Glenn Fogel said during the call.

“But we believe it will be years and not quarters before the travel market returns to pre-COVID volume,” he added.

Booking Holdings saw the worst effects of the pandemic in the most recent quarter, reporting that gross bookings fell by 91%. Revenue fell 84% from the same period last year to $US630 million.

The company said that it saw signs of recovery in July as people grew more comfortable travelling domestically in the US.

At the same time, however, it announced it would have to make significant cuts to its workforce. Fogel said in the call that the company had reduced headcount across Kayak, OpenTable, and Agoda by 22% and that it expected to lay off about 25% of Booking.com’s global workforce by the end of the year.

“We’re looking at some period of uncertainty right now until we figure out more about what’s happening with the vaccine and how that would impact people’s comfort,” CFO David Goulden said.