The State of Online Travel Agencies — 2020

The calm before the storm. Full year 2019 results and key takeaways for 10 publicly traded online travel companies: Booking, Expedia, Trip.com, eDreams Odigeo, Despegar, On The Beach, Lastminute, MakeMyTrip, TripAdvisor, Trivago

The first section of this report covers how these 8 Online Travel Agencies and 2 metasearch companies compare in terms of revenue, EBITDA, and marketing in 2019. In the second section, I take a closer look at each company and highlight some of their successes and challenges. 2019 was the last year of the old normal for OTAs (and for the world) at least for the next foreseeable future. 2020 full year results will tell a very different story.

Some highlights on this group’s 2019 results:

- Combined revenues grew at a weighed average of 5% in 2019 (down from 11% in 2018) and at a simple average of 8% (up from 6% in 2018).

- Booking and Expedia account for 79% of the combined revenue of the 8 OTAs in this report.

- EBITDA for the 10 companies grew at a weighed average of 9% in 2019 (15% in 2018). Only Despegar decreased its EBITDA from 2018 to 2019, and only MakeMyDay has failed to have positive EBITDA.

- On The Beach, Lastminute and Trip.com had the highest revenue growth rates in 2019.

- eDreams Odigeo remains the largest OTA in Europe in Revenue and EBITDA, but Lastminute Group is growing both its revenues and EBITDA at much higher rates and is gradually catching up.

- The largest OTA in Latin America, Despegar, had a subpar year and was the only OTA to decrease its EBITDA from 2018 to 2019.

- The largest OTA in India, MakeMyTrip, still has been unable to post a year of positive EBITDA.

- TripAdvisor is 38% larger in revenues than Trivago, but 5X larger in EBITDA. Both are impacted by an investment shift from large OTAs like Expedia and Booking, and from stronger competition from Google Travel.

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1. 2019 results

1.1. Revenues

Note: eDreams and MakeMyTrip fiscal year ends March of the following year. eDreams and MakeMyTrip data shown for 2017 -2019 is calendar year (adding the 4 calendar year quarters). On The Beach fiscal year ends in September. All data comes from companies’ financial statements.

Booking and Expedia account for 73% of combined revenues of the 10 online travel companies in this report. Adding Ctrip, we get to an 87% share of revenues. The remaining 7 companies are responsible for 13% of total revenues. The big three OTAs have earned 1 percentage point of revenue share among the 10 online travel competitors.

When we look at the universe of the “Other” 7 players, Lastminute and On the Beach have won marketshare (1 percentage point each) and Trivago has lost 2 percentage points.

If we ignore the two metasearches and just look at the 8 OTAs in this analysis, the three largest (Booking, Expedia and Ctrip) concentrated 93.4% of total revenue for the 8 Online Travel Agencies in 2019. Same as in 2018. Of these 3, Ctrip and Expedia have gained share and Booking has lost almost a percentage point. As for the other OTAs, only Lastminute and On The Beach have slightly gained share.

Revenue share of the total revenue of the 8 Online Travel Agencies (Booking, Expedia, Ctrip, eDreams, Lastminute, Despegar, MakeMyTrip, On The Beach). For those OTAs that report in foreign currency, I have converted their yearly revenue at the average conversion rate for each of the years

In 2019, On The Beach and Lastminute saw the largest revenue growth rates, with 41% and 20% respectively. In 2018, On The Beach also had the largest revenue growth (24.5%) and Lastminute also had a strong growth of 14.3%. In terms of the large three OTAs, Ctrip had a 12.3% revenue growth rate in 2019 while Booking and Expedia had modest growth of 3.7% and 7.5%.

2019 was another bad year for metasearches, with Tripadvisor and Trivago falling by -3.4% and -8.3% respectively. It was also not an impressive year for OTA regional champions like MakeMyTrip (India’s largest OTA) at 0.6% and Despegar (Latin America’s largest OTA) decreasing by -1.1%. It should noted that Despegar’s FX neutral revenue grew 19%, however. eDreams Odigeo (Europe’s largest OTA) grew at a more healthy rate of 8.2% (calendar year, not their fiscal year).

If we look at a more long term view of revenue growth, all OTAs and metasearches in this analysis with the exception of eDreams have had strong compounded annual growth rates well above 10% in the 2013–2019 period. Ctrip’s and On The Beach’s CAGR growth have been spectacular at 46% and 44% annual growth rate for the 6 year period.

2013–2019 CAGR except for the following; CAGR for Ctrip is for 2014–2019 period. For Trivago and Lastminute is for 2015–2019. For Despegar and On The Beach is for 2016–2019 period. All euro and pound based OTAs are also in their local currency.

1.2. Marketing

Ctrip, Trivago, Tripadvisor, MakeMyTrip and On The Beach lowere their marketing investments in 2019. MakeMyTrip’s marketing costs had the sharpest decrease in 2019 (-26%), although its revenues only grew by 0.6%.

For the first time (at least since 2013), Expedia’s marketing costs in 2019 were higher than Booking’s. Booking kept its 2019 marketing investments at the same levels than in 2018. Lastminute had the largest growth in marketing costs (+11%), and their revenues increased by 20%, as we saw in the previous section.

The marketing over revenues ratio can point to the relative efficiency of marketing spend. The higher the ratio, the more marketing pressure the company requires to drive sales, although we also need to take into account the nature of the product. Every single player, with the exception of Despegar, lowered their marketing/revenues ratio from 2018 to 2019.

Trivago, which has traditionally relied on extensive offline marketing campaigns, has brought its marketing/revenues ration down for two years in a row but it continues to have the highest ratio of all the players in this analysis. eDreams Odigeo has the highest ratio of all OTAs, with 63%, a slight improvement over 2018 . Expedia has been in the low 40’s for the past few years, while Booking has shown better marketing efficiency results in the low to mid 30’s. From 32% in 2018 to 28% in 2018, On The Beach which saw a 40% increase in revenues in 2019, had the steepest year in year decrease in marketing/revenues and also the lowest ratio at 25% (same as Ctrip).

1.3. EBITDA

MakeMyTrip continues to be the only public online travel company posting EBITDA losses year after year. With a $130 million negative EBITDA, calendar year 2019 was no exception.

Booking leads by a very large margin with a 2019 EBITDA of $5855 million, followed by Expedia with $2134 million, Ctrip with $931 million and eDreams with $142 million.

With the exception of Despegar, all other players had EBITDA growth from 2018 to 2019. Trivago had the largest percentage increase (+380%), followed by Ctrip (+79%) and Lastminute (+62%). If we look at CAGR, Ctrip’s EBITDA has grown at 272% annual growth rate since 2014, while Expedia and Booking have grown at 19% and 17% per year respectively since 2013. Despegar’s EBITDA in 2019 is below 2016 levels, and MakeMyTrip has had the steepest EBITDA absolute decrease of all. TripAdvisor and eDreams have had low single digit EBITDA growth since 2013.

EBITDA margin (EBITDA/Revenues) is an assessment of operating profitability. At 39%, Booking comes up with the healthiest ratio, followed by TripAdvisor with 28% and On The Beach with 26%. European OTAs eDreams Odigeo (23%) and Lastminute (20%) are next, with the latter down from 33% i 2018. On the low end, Trivago and Despegar are in single digits and MakeMyTrip is on negative territory.

2.1. Booking Holdings

The world’s most valuable online travel agency saw a 4% growth in revenue in 2019. Brands include Booking.com (primarily international), KAYAK, Priceline (primarily North America), Agoda (primarily Asia-Pacific region), Rentalcars.com and OpenTable.

The strength of Booking.com and its relentless focus on the accommodations product continues to drive the group’s growth.

Source: Booking Holdings 2018 annual report

Booking continues to strengthen its position in alternative accommodations in order to compete effectively against Airbnb in this growing category. As of December 2019, 82% of Booking.com properties are homes, apartments and other non-traditional places to stay, up from 75% in 2017. 2019 growth in non traditional properties was 22%, noticeably higher than the 6% growth in hotels, motels and resorts.

Source: Booking Holdings 2019 annual report

Booking Holdings’ business is driven primarily and increasingly by its international (outside the US) results, which consist of Booking.com, agoda.com and Rentalcars.com, and the international businesses of KAYAK and OpenTable. This classification is independent on where the consumer resides.

Share of International (non-US) Revenues
2015: 80%
2016: 84%
2017: 87%
2018: 89%
2019: 90%

Booking Holdings’ marketing has traditionally been heavily dependent on performance marketing (search, metasearch…), representing 89% of total marketing spend in 2019. At the end of 2017, the company announced at the an intention to shift more towards brand advertising (TV, online video, online display), and in 2019 for the first time in recent past, Booking decreased its performance marketing investments in absolute terms (by 1%) vs 2018. Brand marketing increased 8% in 2019, and its share of total marketing investment has climbed slowly but consistently year after year, from 8% in 2016 to 11% in 2019.

Source: Booking Holdings 2019 annual report

Booking.com has been expanding its merchant model (where Booking receives payments from travelers) to provide greater payment options for both customers and travel providers. Merchant revenues grew 28% in 2019, while agency revenues decreased by 3%.

Source: Booking Holdings 2019 annual report

2.2 Expedia Group

Expedia revenues grew by 8% in 2019, primarily driven by growth in the core OTA segment (brand Expedia, Hotels.com and Expedia Partner Solutions), as well as vrbo (this segment was referred as Homeaway in previous years) which saw the largest % increase in revenue, with +14%. After falling by 7% in 2018, Trivago had another year of revenue loss, with a -10% in 2019.

Expedia’s core OTA revenues in 2019 were 78% of total revenues, same as in previous years. Vrbo’s share of group revenues continues to climb year after year, going from 8% of total revenues in 2016 to 11% in 2019. Trivago’s share of revenues on the other hand, continues to see yearly declines, from a 9% share of total revenues in 2016 to 5% in 2019.

Source: Expedia Group 2019 annual report

On a revenue by product basis, lodging accounted for 70% of total Expedia Group revenue in 2019 (up from 69% in 2018), air accounted for 7% (down from 8% in 2018), advertising and media for 9% (down from 10%), and all other revenues accounted for the remaining 13%.

Lodging had the largest revenue growth of all the business segments, with a 10% growth. Air revenue decreased 1% in 2019 on an 8% decrease in revenue per ticket, mostly offset by a 7% increase in air tickets sold. Advertising and media revenue increased 1% in 2019, with growth at Expedia Group Media Solutions which was largely offset by declines in Trivago revenue. All other revenue increased by 6% in 2019, which includes car rental, insurance, destination services, fees related to our corporate travel business and the inorganic impact related to the acquisition of Bodybuilding.com.

Source: Expedia Group 2019 annual report

2.3. Trip.com (previously known as Ctrip)

With a 39% share of total revenues in 2018, transportation revenues still remains the largest segment, although it has decreased from 45% in 2017 and 42% in 2018. The Accommodations and Packaged Tours segments have gradually gained share in 2018 and 2019, and now account for 38% and 13% of total revenue respectively. If the current trend continues, Accommodations will be the largest revenue segment for Trip.com in 2020, particularly given the pandemic context.

Trip.com saw a 15% increase in net revenue in 2019 in local currency terms. Transportation, Trip.com’s largest product segment, had the lowest year-on-year growth rate with 8%. Accommodations, Packaged Tours and Corporate travel saw year on year growth rates of 17%, 20% and 28%. Trip.com’s “others” segment, which primarily includes online advertising services and financial services, had the largest year on year growth in 2019, at +35%.

Trip.com, Revenue by Segment. Trip.com growth rates are based on local currency in order to remove currency rate impact. Source: Trip.com 2019 financial results

Trip.com’s international business continued to grow faster than domestic. The year-over-year revenue growth for hotels excluding Greater China destinations reached 51% in the fourth quarter of 2019 while international air ticketing volume delivered its 13th consecutive triple-digit growth in Q4 2019.

2.4. eDreams Odigeo

Includes 4 OTAs brands: eDreams, GoVoyages, Opodo, Travellink. And one metasearch: Liligo.com

In calendar year 2019 (which is different than eDreams’ fiscal year), eDreams Odigeo grew revenues by 8% and EBITDA by 17%, the highest rates since 2014. In the Q2-Q4 2019 period, however, EBITDA fell by 4% year on year. In this period, revenue grew by 3% in eDreams Odigeo’s 6 core markets and by 21% in other markets, which points to another year of market share loss in eDreams’ traditionally strongest markets (most likely mainly to airline competitors).

The company has stated that one of its key strategic goals for the last 5 years has been to diversify its revenues away from flights. In previous years, results have not shown much success on this front (see graph below), and the company did not include its flights vs non-flights revenue breakdown in its FY 2019, which might indicate that non-flight revenues have not made much progress. This might not be necessarily bad if it means that eDreams is focused on flight product innovation.

Fiscal Year ends March of the following year. Elaborated from data in eDreams Odigeo FY 2017 and FY 2018 annual reports

eDreams Odigeo provides another breakdown of revenues that shows an increase in “diversification revenues”, which includes flight ancillaries (reserved seats, additional check-in luggage…), flight insurance, as well as certain commissions, overcommissions and incentives directly received from airlines. As such, these “diversified revenues” continue to depend on the company’s ability to drive flight bookings. To understand whether eDreams Odigeo is indeed succeeding in its objective to expand its revenue beyond flight-dependent products, we would need to have a breakdown of its non-flight business (hotels, vacation packages). The only non-hotel business that eDreams gives details on is advertising and meta, whose share of overall revenues decreases year after year.

“Classic Supplier Revenue” represents GDS incentives for Bookings mediated by us through GDSs and incentives received from payment service providers. “Diversification Revenue”: revenue earned through vacation products (car rentals, hotels and Dynamic Packages), flight ancillaries (reserved seats, additional checkin luggage, travel insurance and additional service options), travel insurance, as well as certain commissions, over-commissions and incentives directly received from airlines. “Classic Customer Revenue” earned through flight service fees, cancellation and modification fees, tax refunds and mobile application revenue.

Marketing effectiveness ratio (marketing expenses / revenues) in calendar year 2019 was 63% (spends $63 in marketing to generate $100 in revenues), the highest among all OTAs in this analysis. It is also 4 percentage points worse than in 2013 but 2 percentage points better than in 2018. This high marketing expense ratio (compared to the industry) could be explained in large part by eDreams’ flight product specialization. At the same time, eDreams has also one of the highest EBITDA/Revenue ratios in the industry: 23%. The only other OTAs that have a better EBITDA margin than eDreams is Booking, at 39%.

eDreams mobile bookings reached 44% of total bookings in fiscal year ending march 2020, which compares favorably with Phocuswright’s estimated 31% mobile bookings for European online travel in 2019.

One very positive element in eDreams in the last couple of years is its Prime membership program, unique among all OTAs. In Q1 2020, it reached 556.000 subscribers, up from 165.000 a year before. This large base of subscribers should increase the rate of repeat purchases, lower marketing costs, and improve EBITDA as a result. I look forward to seeing this impact in the coming quarters and years.

2.5. Despegar

Despegar’s revenue grew by 1% in 2019, and by 19% in FX neural terms. Adjusted EBITDA was down 62% in 2019, while comparable Adjusted EBITDA declined 42%, reflecting challenging macro conditions in Argentina and to a lesser extent in Brazil, resulting in higher YoY price discounts in packages to drive growth, and lower fees from lodging and car rental transactions.

Despegar has successfully diversified its revenue mix beyond flights. Revenue from hotels and packages represented 50% of total revenues in 2016, 54% in 2017, 60% in 2018 and 62% in 2019.

Mobile transactions accounted 30% in 2017, 36% in 2018, and 41% in 2019.

At the beginning of 2020, Despegar announced its acquisition of Best Day, an OTA with a strong brand recognition in Mexico where it had an online channel and an asset light offline channel with approx. 200 Kiosks in Mexico. Best Day also competes online in Argentina, USA, Colombia, Brazil and Chile. Best Day also has white labels with major travel vendors and strategic partnerships with airlines, hotels, retail stores and banks. This B2B business generates 1/3 of Best Day revenues. In June 2020, Despegar announced changes in the acquisition terms. The $136 million original price was reduced to a base price of $57 million, and zero disbursement at closing instead of the 65% first payment originally negotiated.

2.6. Lastminute Group

Includes 6 OTAs: Lastminute.com, Bravofly, Volagratis, Rumbo, Crocierissime.it, Weg.de. And 2 metasearch: Jetcost and Hotelscan.

In 2019, Lastminute had another strong year, growing revenues by 20% and EBITDA by 62% while showing clear signs of succeeding in their declared goal In total of diversifying away from flights. In 2019, Lastminute’s Travel & Leisure revenues (Dynamic packages, Tour Operator packages, Hotels) were higher than flight revenues for the second year in a row. The Travel and Leisure share was 40.9% of core business revenues, slightly up from 2018 in % terms, but €23 million more in absolute terms. This increase was driven primarily by Lastminute’s dynamic package product, which constitutes 60% of travel and leisure revenues. Lastminute.com’s big success story over the past few years has been the dynamic package. Since 2014, this product has grown by over 14-fold in revenues.

Flight revenue share increased almost 5 percentage points to 39.6%, while metasearch revenue decreased by 5 percentage points, equivalent to a loss of €7 million from 2018 to 2019.

Source: Lastminute Group 2019 Annual Report
Source: Lastminute Group 2019 Annual Report

France and the UK are Lastminute’s largest markets. The only big change in terms of geographical breakdown in the last few years is the share captured by Germany as a result of the integration of Weg.de, the German package holidays OTA acquired by Lastminute late in 2017.

Information from Lastminute Group 2019 Annual Report

Marketing costs increased by €14 million (11,7%) from €116,4 million in 2018 to €130 million in 2019. Marketing costs as percentage of revenues decreased in 2019 compared to 2018 (37% vs 40%). This decrease in the contribution on revenue is mainly due to lower marketing investment offline (down €5.5 million from 2018).

2.7. MakeMyTrip

From a top and bottom line perspective, calendar year 2019 (FY ends in March) was a disappointing year for the Indian leading OTA: flat in revenues and a negative EBITDA of $130 million (although better than the -$172 million EBITDA in 2018). After lowering its marketing spend by 44% in 2018, MakeMyTrip lowered its marketing investment again in 2019 by 26%.

Looking at Q2–Q4 2019, we can see that segments with the highest revenue YoY growth are the smallest in absolute size: Other revenue (+48%) and Bus ticketing (+21%). MakeMyTrip’s hotels and packages share of total revenues has gone down year after year, from 67% in the Q2-Q4 2017 period down to 49% in 2018 and 46% in 2019.

MakeMyTrip has not had a positive EBITDA in any of the years included in this report (2013–2019), a troubling situation for a company that has the largest market share in India and that has been operating for 19 years.

2.8. On The Beach

On The Beach is a UK online retailer specialized in short haul beach holidays. In 2017, it expanded into Sweden and Norway and in 2018 it launched in Denmark and acquired Classic Collection Holidays (for £20m). Classic Collection dynamically packages luxury beach holidays and sells its packages through a network of third party offline travel agencies — including independent high street agents and homeworkers.In March 2019, On The Beach launched Classic Package Holidays, an agent-only booking portal that had 1500 agents signed up by the end of 2019.

On The Beach had the highest revenue growth of all the 10 players in this analysis. It also had the lowest marketing/revenue ratio at 25%.

We can see that in Fiscal Year 2019, Classic Collection grew revenues by £41,6 million, the largest driver to On The Beach group’s 41% growth. Classic Collection’s share of revenues went from 13% in 2018 to 37% in 2019. Its revenues doubled from 2018 to 2019 to £2.2 million.

Information from On The Beach Group annual 2019 annual report

2.9. Tripadvisor

Tripadvisor’s revenue fell by 3% and its EBITDA grew by 4% in 2019.

Full year Hotels, Media & Platform segment revenue was $939 million, a 6% decrease year-over-year. The $62 million decrease was primarily due to a decrease in hotel metasearch auction revenue. This segment has gone down for two years in a a row and its share on total revenues has gone from 66% in 2017 to 60% in 2019.

For the years ended December 31, 2019, 2018 and 2017, The Experiences & Dining segment revenue accounted for 17%, 23% and 29% of total revenue in 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively. It grew by 41% in 2018 and 23% in 2019, driven by growth in consumer demand, mobile reservations, and bookable supply on the Tripadvisor platform, and to a lesser extent, to incremental revenue related to 2019 acquisitions.

Other revenue, which primarily includes click-based advertising and display-based advertising revenue from rentals, flights, cruises and car offerings on Tripadvisor, and non-Tripadvisor branded websites, such as
www.smartertravel.com, www.bookingbuddy.com, www.cruisecritic.com and www.onetime.com, decreased by $77 million or 32% and $28 million or 10%, during 2019 and 2018, respectively. It is worth noting that Tripadvisor sold their SmarterTravel Media portfolio of eight online brands in July 2020.

Information from Tripadvisor 2019 annual result

2.10. Trivago

Trivago had the largest revenue drop of all players in this analysis (-8.3%), but a very strong EBITDA growth, going from €15 million in 2018 to €70 million in 2019, an 111% increase.

The decrease in revenues came as a result of a 22% drop in Qualified Referrals (1 QR = Trivago visitor clicking on an OTA or supplier direct product offer) which was partly offset by a 17% increase in Revenue per Qualified Referral (metric that measures how effective Trivago is in monetizing the leads sent to advertisers).

Trivago continues to generate the majority of its revenues from the largest two OTA: Booking Holdings (Booking.com, Agoda, etc…) and Trivago owner Expedia Group (Expedia brand, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, Wotif, Vrbo, eBookers).

Trivago Revenue Mix per Advertiser. Source: Trivago 2019 annual report

Notes
-Expedia: Data for Marketing Costs field is Direct Selling and Marketing (adjusted selling and marketing). Not including Indirect Selling and Marketing. Adjusted EBITDA
-Booking: Data for Marketing Costs field is Performance Advertising + Brand Advertising. Not including Indirect Sales and Marketing Costs. Data for EBITDA field is Adjusted EBITDA.
-eDreams: Fiscal year ends March. eDreams data shown for 2017, 2018 and 2019 is calendar year (adding the 4 calendar year quarters). Data for Revenues = Revenue Margin. Data for Marketing Costs = Variable Costs. Adjusted EBITDA.
-Lastminute: Group Revenue. For 2014–2015 Adjusted EBITDA figures. For 2016–2019 Business EBITDA figures.
-Tripadvisor: Data for Marketing Costs = Selling & Marketing Direct Costs (includes stock based compensation expenses). Data for Ebitda is Total Adjusted Ebitda
-Trivago: Data for Marketing Costs = Advertising expense for annual data. Revenue is total revenue: related parties + third parties.
-MakeMyTrip: Fiscal year ends march of the following year. Annual 2017-2019 is calendar year (adding the 4 quarters).
-Ctrip. Marketing = Sales and marketing
-Despegar. Selling and marketing
-On The Beach: Fiscal year ends September.

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Mauricio Prieto

Mauricio Prieto

Entrepreneur, technology consultant, startup advisor, digital transformation. eDreams cofounder, former CMO

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