Listening to travel brands this week, the silence on sustainability is deafening

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CEO of Expedia Group, Airbnb, Booking Holdings

Three CEOs of online travel brands spoke to financial analysts this week for their quarterly earnings calls for the first quarter of 2022.

PhocusWire has listened to and also reviewed press releases issued prior to the calls.

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Glenn Fogel, CEO and chairman of Booking Holdings, one of the world’s largest and most influential travel brands, said during the company’s call with analysts for its first quarter 2022 results this week:

“Finally, as I announced on our last earnings call, we published our 2021 Sustainability Report and Climate Action Plan in March. In our Climate Action Plan, we have highlighted the significant emissions reductions we have already achieved, in part through sourcing 100% renewable energy for our office by the end of last year. And we are committed to further reducing to halve our emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2040.

“We are proud of the reduction in emissions achieved and the ambitious target set for our company. But as I have said before, we believe that our greatest influence on sustainable travel is in making it easier to find and book ‘sustainable options for travelers. We are tackling this opportunity at our work with our travels again [Indiscernible] program, which now includes more than 100,000 properties that can showcase their sustainable practices to guests on

The comments came at the end of Fogel’s opening remarks to the usual group of analysts who tune in to such events, after the traditional passage of key performance measures and other elements of the quarterly financial report.

Activists who pressure the industry to be more proactive on the sustainability agenda and the sector’s impact on climate change – and anyone who cares about these critical issues – will be pleased that the subject gets airtime.

They hope Booking Holdings and analysts have deepened strategies to address the biggest problem the industry is likely to face in the near future.

And they hope similar comments regarding sustainability were presented by Expedia Group and Airbnb in their calls with financial analysts earlier in the week.

However, these hopes will be in vain.

Reviewing the number of mentions of environmentally related”sustainability” (not related to finance) in tax returns and subsequent call transcripts will be a disappointing exercise, because we discovered the following (number of mentions in parentheses):

Reserve credits

  • Tax return – “sustainable””sustainability” (0)
  • Executive Comments on Investor Call – “sustainable””sustainability” (4)
  • Analyst Questions – “sustainability””sustainability” (0)

Expedia Group

  • Tax return – “sustainable””sustainability” (0)
  • Executive Comments on Investor Call – “sustainability””sustainability” (0)
  • Analyst Questions – “sustainability””sustainability” (0)


  • Tax return – “sustainable””sustainability” (0)
  • Executive Comments on Investor Call – “sustainability””sustainability” (0)
  • Analyst Questions – “sustainability””sustainability” (0)

Some might find such a revelation quite disappointing, while others would say it’s almost negligent not to showcase sustainability at the heart of a company’s strategy.

And still others might say it illustrates just how far sustainability ranks in the pecking order of priorities for these three companies and others – or, even worse, how public statements about sustainability made by many many travel brands just tick the right boxes. on the corporate social responsibility strategy.

Given the gravity of the climate change situation and the commitments made by these large and powerful corporations to address it, it is reasonable to ask why sustainability does not figure more – or at all – in these times when the attention is paid to them.

We can give them the benefit of the doubt, of course, since these are usually financial talks and announcements. But Airbnb, for example, went into the call at length on how its employees can now work from home or how in the statement we can “Meet Jason” and learn more about his life as a host over the past three years. years.

Expedia Group, just a few weeks ago, was extremely proud to announce that it had joined the Travalyst coalition of travel brands (“aligning our mission of travel as a force for good”) who are working together to strategize as part of the sustainable development agenda. But such an important decision warranted no mention in its latest financial update.

The company brought together the big and the good in the industry this week in Las Vegas and hosted two sustainability published program sessions for its partners.

This is encouraging – Expedia Group is trying to get its hotel customers and others on the agenda. But he and others need to do more to make it more than a passing mention (if any) in quarterly updates.

Aside from tax filings, many companies will no doubt defend themselves against the lack of sustainability coverage in analyst calls – likely claiming that they only respond to what is asked of them.

And that is, perhaps, the crux of the problem. If financial analysts fail to make sustainability an important topic of discussion, likely because these questions don’t guide their money-focused thinking, then it won’t trigger the debate it deserves.

At some point in the future, climate change will impact the decisions that financial institutions make about where to invest, and this will become a major talking point. People react and wake up when it comes to money.

But it will probably be too late to make a difference, when right now making a difference is still achievable.

Much needs to change in the minds of industry leaders and the banking community, alongside consumer decisions. It is no longer enough to provide information to influence consumer choice.

We look forward to seeing this happen in a meaningful way and seeing sustainability become more than just a footnote in corporate strategies that can – and should – play a huge role.

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