The new chief executive of Expedia, Mark Okerstrom, says he is planning to accelerate the company’s global expansion plans, after his predecessor Dara Khosrowshahi left to take up the top spot at Uber.
“My goal is just to evolve even faster,” said Mr Okerstrom in an interview with the Financial Times, one of his first public appearances since he took over the helm at the online travel company.
The 44-year-old Canadian-born executive pointed to global expansion as a particular area of focus. “It is about making sure that we are locally relevant on a global scale,” he said. Expedia operates in 65 countries, and offers booking services for hotels in more than 200 countries, but the bulk of its business still comes from the US.
Mr Okerstrom, who was the company’s chief financial officer before he became chief executive earlier this month, said opportunistic acquisitions might be part of this global push. Before Expedia, he was a consultant with Bain & Company in Boston and San Francisco, and worked with UBS investment bank in London.
“I think we will always be an acquisitive company,” he said. He added that he considers Expedia to be “strategically complete” after a string of acquisitions including Travelocity, Orbitz and HomeAway. “Anything else we do from this point will be opportunistic and additive.”
The online travel company grew rapidly under the 12-year watch of Mr Khosrowshahi. Its revenue during the second quarter of this year was $2.6bn, up 18 per cent from the same time a year earlier.
However, one recent challenge for Expedia has been the policies of the Trump administration, whose policies have included tighter immigration rules and a ban on laptops in flights from the Middle East to the US.
“Could that be having a chilling impact on people’s desire to travel to the US? I think so,” said Mr Okerstrom. “Legislation that limits people’s ability to travel, as a travel company, that is bad for us.”
The natural disasters that have ravaged portions of the US this summer have also had an affect on the company — from Hurricane Harvey’s flooding in Houston, to the devastating wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.
“It has been a pretty difficult summer, and recently with the storms, that has been challenging,” Mr Okerstrom acknowledged. He declined to quantify exactly what the financial impact on Expedia has been. “We are currently just tallying up the impact, and it is still going on,” he said.
For the travel company, the natural disasters mean increased costs — for example for extra staffing at call centres, or waiving cancellations fees. Other industries including insurers and utilities have also been deeply affected by the natural disasters.
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