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Expedia Group COO on the Delta variant’s impact on travel

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Jeff Hurst, COO Expedia Brands at Expedia Group, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the outlook on the ravel industry outlook and Expedia’s Partnership with UNICEF to increase vaccination rates.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Chairs of Expedia Group are coming under some pressure today. The parent company of bunch of travel companies, including Vrbo and hotels.com saw bookings and quarterly revenue bounce back from a year ago. But it did post a larger than expected loss. Joining us now is Jeff Hurst, chief operating officer of Expedia brands at Expedia Group. Jeff, it is good to see you again. In many ways, this report is a little backwards looking. So I want to talk about what's happening right now as this Delta variant continues to gain momentum. Are you starting to see cancellations tick up at least in the short term?

JEFF HURST: Yeah, thanks for having me back. And very pleased to be here again. And so what we're seeing right now around the world is that July was a little bit softer than the momentum we had seen earlier in the second quarter. And we think most of that's attributed to the Delta variant. And so people have gotten very accustomed to how they travel in a pandemic and what that means. But at the same time, as new information comes out and as we get towards the end of summer, I think we saw a little bit more pressure as a result of people kind of learning to adapt to what the new variant means and how that could impact travel patterns.

So it is a little bit softer. But it's still much stronger than earlier in the pandemic.

- Jeff, not too long ago, just a couple of minutes ago, we were chatting with an airline analyst who really said that some of the peak point of the Delta variant surges is still up ahead. So still some more pain at least for the airlines to be experiencing. Are you reading the tea leaves really the same way over at Expedia, especially as we have some of these seasonal travel changes, folks going back to school? What are you anticipating especially as we head more into the holiday travel season? Do you think that demand is going to be far more muted because of the virus and the variant?

JEFF HURST: As much as the virus, I think a lot of it will end up being how the schools respond, and how workplaces respond, and what those patterns really look like. And so there are dramatic differences in terms of back to school approaches, back to work approaches. And I think as we see those settle between now and kind of September as people resume those more standard behaviors and rituals, we'll start to understand more of what the longer term impact is.

As we look around the world, we've seen Delta variant spike and come down in some countries. And so it's really too early to know what the longer term impact is. And so we're focused on being sure travelers can take good trips today and being sure we're serving our partners well and being prepared for whatever may be around the corner.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Jeff, I know before joining as CEO at Expedia, you were President of Vrbo. And that is a section of the business that is still a bright spot. I mean, never mind whether or not people are traveling on an airplane. You're seeing this bounce in lodging. Talk to us about sort of behavior there. Are people looking at different areas to stay? Are people staying for longer periods of time as we head into the fall?

JEFF HURST: Yeah, I think that has been a really durable trend and bright spot for Expedia Group. And so a lot of families, and couples, and friends, and groups of friends, experienced the joy of the whole home for the first time through Vrbo. We do expect them to be coming back because it's such a great product to offer in such a great experience. And so what we're seeing right now is a lot of the earlier pandemic trends such as more rural getaways, that whole home experience, people trying to be out in nature and have a little bit more privacy are quite durable.

And notably, what people experienced was a lot of places started to sell out during the summer. And so that people are returning from or just now in that summer vacation, we're actually seeing the booking windows extend again. And so people are starting to plan for that next trip, which may be in the fall or may be in the winter, or even next spring to be sure they get a great house so that they can have that perfect option value. Because we do have flexible cancellation policies. And people want to have some certainty that they can take that type of trip again in the future.

- Before we let you go, Jeff, I want to ask about experience partnership with UNICEF. What is it? And how can folks out there participate?

JEFF HURST: Yeah we're really excited about. this at Expedia Group. And so what we announced yesterday was that every trip booked through any of the Expedia Group family of apps, whether that's hotels.com, or Expedia, Vrbo, Travelocity, Orbitz, we're making a donation to UNICEF to help provide a COVID-19 vaccine to someone in need. UNICEF is the world's largest provider of vaccines that gave over $2 billion even before the pandemic. And we believe the global travel's not going to be back to normal until we really solve for vaccine and equity, and being in a position where we can roam freely again and help put an end to the pandemic.

So we're running this campaign and really encouraging people to participate by booking through our family of mobile apps and helping to make a difference in ending the pandemic.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right. Jeff Hurst, chief operating officer at Expedia brands at Expedia Group. Always good to see you. Enjoy your weekend.