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Hopper launches new last-minute hotel booking feature 'Stay The Night'

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Fred Lalonde, Hopper CEO and co-founder, joined Yahoo Finance Live to dicuss the app's new feature and his outlook for the travel sector.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: We want to stick with travel because it's a big story that's trending here at Yahoo Finance. We talk about what the demand looks like ahead of Memorial Day weekend. And for that, we want to bring in Fred Lalonde. He is Hopper's co-founder and CEO. And Fred, I guess, take us through some of the trends that you're seeing right now. What has activity been like on your app over the last several months?

FRED LALONDE: Absolutely. Well, demand is definitely back for leisure travel. And it's definitely back in a domestic-- the US domestic market. So the Hopper app tracks almost all of the air shopping and a lot of the hotel demand in real time. This is what we use to do our famous forecasting that our users use. And what we're seeing is that the domestic air travel demand is back to almost 15% lower than pre-pandemic. This is surprising for one reason because business travel is functionally zero right now. So you would estimate that leisure might actually be overpowering a lot of the demand we had before the shutdown last year.

Hotel is definitely soaring. A lot of what we're seeing is staycation, so stays that are booked within 200 miles of where people live. And the hottest category right now that we're seeing is car rental. So that is up 500% since the beginning of the year. So everything domestic is definitely up. International travel, as you would imagine, is still very much shut down.

We're seeing people that are starting to book for what we call long lead, so maybe that trip to Europe you've been thinking about. But most of what international is right now is Mexico and Caribbean. Actually, one of the most interesting numbers is trips from the US to Mexico and the Caribbean represent 25% of all international travel right now, which is completely abnormal.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Hey, Fred, I just got to say, I'm looking forward to the day all those chairs behind you are filled. But until then, as people want to do their staycations, you guys have that new feature, Stay the Night. Explain to us because I'm looking at the top destinations-- Las Vegas, Chicago, LA, Atlanta, New York. How could I use the app, which launched yesterday, to get a better hotel rate?

FRED LALONDE: Yep, that's correct. So what we launched is a feature called Stay the Night. It's right on the home page of the Hopper app. And what we do is we use the same AI and algorithms that we've been using to forecast airfare to find the best deals that are within a driving distance of where you are. So, typically, right now, over half of the bookings that we see on the app are last minute. So that's within 48 hours of arriving at the property. A bunch of them are going to be just people driving there.

And if you are actually monitoring last minute prices on the Hopper app, you can save up to 25%. Because although demand is up, and in some areas, the hotel rates are higher than they've ever been, what we're seeing is you can save up to 25% if you're traveling last minute. So clearly, our ability to match short trips with what our customers are looking for is actually driving a lot of the adoption. And we're recommending that people monitor the prices up to the last minute if they're looking to take that quick weekend getaway.

SEANA SMITH: Hey, Fred, I mean, that is a large number of people who are waiting to book last minute. How does that compare to what we saw pre-pandemic? And I guess, do you expect this trend to continue post-pandemic?

FRED LALONDE: We think that people have probably discovered the areas. And certainly, the car rental numbers are backing that up. And so we're seeing people do a lot of that. I think, however, the mass market is waiting to take what this phenomenon that's been coined revenge travel. So we're seeing a lot of people starting to come back and shop the app, even though, for example, it's hard to travel to Europe right now. We've seen in the last week demand surge on that. And we've also seen a surge of bookings quite interestingly for what's the long lead.

So anything where you're traveling, let's say, in a month or two from now, we saw our biggest day ever was actually on the day where the Biden administration released the stimulus payments to most of the Americans. So Americans have a lot of money in their bank account. We've all been frustrated that we can't travel. And we think that long lead travel, international travel is going to actually boom more than it was before the pandemic. So I think the short haul trips are here for a while. But a lot of people are looking for that big experience they've had to put off for over a year now.

SEANA SMITH: Fred Lalonde, great to speak with you, Hopper CEO and co-founder. Thanks so much for taking the time.