Despegar shares AI trip planner details, reports record quarter

Despegar has hailed its fourth quarter 2023 as “a remarkable period” for the Latin American online travel agency.

During a call with analysts, chief executive Damian Scokin said the company had achieved its highest gross bookings since its IPO in 2017. Gross bookings for the quarter increased 44% year over year to $1.5 billion. For the year, gross bookings were up 31% to $5.3 billion compared with 2022.

Revenues in Q4 increased 40% to $204 million versus the same quarter in 2022 while adjusted EBITDA rose 248% to $44 million for the same period.

Despegar’s B2C business saw gross bookings up 41% to $1.3 billion, which the company attributed primarily to growth in hotels and packages sales in Brazil and Mexico.

The company’s air business increased 25% to $75 million in the quarter versus the same period in 2022. Scokin also said gross bookings in its B2B and white-label operations had expanded 63% and 69%, respectively. In a recent interview with PhocusWire, he shared plans to further grow the B2B business through partnerships with banks and retailers.

Looking to 2024, Despegar forecast a 16% growth year over year to revenue of $820 million, with EBITDA expected to increase 28% to $150 million.

Announcing the numbers, Despegar also provided an update on its artificial intelligence trip planner Sofia, unveiled earlier this month. Chief technology officer Gonzalo Estebarena described developments in artificial intelligence as “the beginning of a new revolution in travel.”

He added that Sofia stands out because it is multimodal and therefore simulates interactions with in-store agents. Estebarena also said Sofia’s flexibility was a differentiator enabling consumers to change travel itineraries as they get deeper down the booking path.

“It’s much like a human interaction in that it doesn’t have to follow a predetermined order or flow that is common with so many of today’s platforms and applications. Our technology allows the traveler to do things that were never thought of in the decision flow of a traditional app.”

He added that the combination of large language models with Despegar’s technology platform also made the AI initiative stand out.

“The potential of this technological shift is enormous since it will allow us not only to leverage our travel tech capabilities but also those of other partners, allowing Sofia to fully assist you with every aspect of travel,” said Estebarena. “We strongly believe that this technology has the potential to transform the industry, and we expect to continue setting the pace a much faster one.”

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