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Expedia Group and Booking Holdings slashed marketing by $6B in 2020 (but Airbnb now makes an entrance)

The combined marketing muscle of Expedia Group and Booking Holdings fell to its lowest level in years during a pandemic-slammed 2020.

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The pair spent $4.7 billion of sales and marketing in 2020, down almost 60% on the figures they produced in the record-breaking 2019.

Such a slump in what is usually a critically important line item on their respective expenditure sheets should not come as a big shock to industry watchers given the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in early-2020.

Booking Holdings cut marketing spend from $4.97 billion in 2019 to $2.2 billion last year – a cut of 55% year-over-year.

The company’s fierce competitor Expedia Group chopped the same costs even deeper with a 57% decrease from $6.07 billion in 2019 to $2.5 billion in 2020.

The body check on marketing spend by the two giants of online travel in 2020 ends a run of gradually slowing increases in prior years.

The pair spent $9.8 billion in 2017, then $10.6 billion in 2018 and the high of $11 billion in 2019.

Those figures for Booking Holdings and Expedia Group were continually scrutinized against the backdrop of Google’s ongoing creep into booking partnerships (flights and accommodation) and dominance in search listings.

Google will have felt a financial squeeze of sorts from losing out on the best part of $6.3 billion in marketing from the duo in 2020 – but it is unlikely that such low levels of spend will be maintained in the early phases of 2021 as travel begins to resume at some sort of scale and marketing to support it comes back into vogue.

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