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Similarweb reports omicron has little impact on holiday travel plans in the U.S.

Alisha Kapur, Similarweb senior manager of travel and e-commerce, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the impact Omicron is having on U.S. holiday travel plans.

Video Transcript

- So a lot of investors are wondering how the omicron variant of COVID-19 might impact the recovery of the travel industry. Alisha Kapur is a senior manager at SimilarWeb. And what they do at SimilarWeb is they track what all of us are doing on our mobile phones and on our computers, the sites we go to. And so you have insight. And it's good to see you, by the way. I should have just said hello at the beginning. But you have an insight on what's actually happening with search in regards to omicron. And it reiterates, I think, what you're finding, what we heard from Savi Syth at Raymond James, which is, so far, no big impact from omicron on bookings. But what are you seeing?

ALISHA KAPUR: Yeah. So, Adam, we have data on search as well as bookings, like you mentioned. And really looking over the past 28 days or so, the impacts of omicron, especially compared to Delta, and especially compared to the beginning of the pandemic, have been relatively mild, right. So we did see a slowdown between November and December. We saw that average daily bookings were up about 8% in November compared to 2019. And a lot of that was just due to pent up holiday travel demand. And then we saw that daily bookings went down about 3% in December, again, compared to 2019. So that's kind of our baseline for recovery.

Knowing that, we can say that there was a slight slowdown. I think part of this would have been anticipated anyway, just given that we had so much demand this holiday season. But what I will say is that we are starting to see cancelations creep up, especially over the past weekend for the airlines. And international share of bookings is down, which is to be expected, just given a lot of the restrictions happening at the moment.

- Alisha, this is Emily here. Always great having you on. I'm wondering, as you look ahead a little bit further into 2022, you mentioned the slowdown that we're seeing around the holidays here, some of the cancelations ticking up, but are you seeing people now starting to book travel for further down the line, perhaps a couple of months into the future, maybe with the optimism that this latest surge and this latest wave of the coronavirus may start to subside by then?

ALISHA KAPUR: That's a great question, Emily. So we haven't necessarily seen an uptick in searches further down the line yet. But I will say that when delta variant hit, we saw a spike in bookings for 2022. So I wouldn't be surprised to see people looking at spring travel or summer travel in a similar way to what they did when the delta variant hit, right, just kind of postponing those trips or rescheduling trips they've already booked. So I think that's partially why we're not seeing that same spike in cancelations.

And when we look at flight and hotel bookings over here, you can see that they've remained very strong. We obviously have this kind of spike in the summer from Southwest. That was during their 50th anniversary sale. And since then, we've seen that bookings have hovered around the range they were at in the summer and fall. So not yet, again, seeing those slowdowns. And like you said, hopefully seeing that people are booking further ahead and looking at maybe the end of the pandemic. It's a little too soon to say. But I'm definitely optimistic that we're hopefully turning a new corner after the next few months.

- Well, the clients who actually purchase the data that you collect-- I mean, for instance, American Airlines, they were one of the few airlines to actually go up today during trading. And part of that might be the announcement in the spring that their partnership with JetBlue will allow them to add 700 flights domestically. And yet you point out they're the one that's been struggling the most with the highest amount of traffic for cancelations. Help reconcile that for us.

ALISHA KAPUR: Yeah. It's a great point. I mean, I think the reason they announced their partnership with JetBlue, as well as announcing additional hiring plans for January, is the fact that they really didn't have the resources to support the routes and the demand that they had this year. And that's why we're seeing heightened visits to cancelation pages, right. So some of that might not be consumers canceling on their own. Some of it could be the airline actually canceling flights and then consumers visiting those pages. And I think that's what's happening with American a lot.

But I think that their plans for the future definitely set them up for success to manage demand in a much more efficient way than they had this year. And a lot of that, again, was just due to certain cutbacks that all of the airlines did during the pandemic. I think no one expected to see the surge that we saw this summer and then this fall that for holiday travel. So, hopefully, that'll maintain and all the airlines will be prepared for that.

- Real quick, Alisha, as we think back over the course of 2021, how would you describe the travel industry and these sort of stop and start recovery that we had so far over the course of the past year now?

ALISHA KAPUR: I would say that the one word that comes to mind is resilience. I think that's kind of a stakeholder of the travel industry, or a proper descriptor for the travel industry. What we've seen is that there have been a lot of headwinds against the travel industry over the past two years. And even within that uncertainty, companies are really, really being flexible. And they're really responding as best they can. And I think it's showing through in the amount of, again, bookings that we're seeing, in the resurgence and confidence in travel, in the fact that people are still maintaining their travel plans despite some of this new recent omicron news.

So I think at the end of the day, it has been stop start, like you said. But the way that the industry has responded has really been with resilience and continuing to kind of pick up momentum where they can. So we've seen pivots. We're seeing much more domestic travel, much more car rental travel, things like that. And I think that's going to continue.