A freak storm in October that left parts of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut without heat and electric power turned out to be a boon for priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN ) . Instead of freezing in the dark, people started booking hotel rooms through priceline.com's hotel negotiator app made for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhones and iPads as well as for Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android devices. The company's website experienced a 270% jump in online traffic for hotel bookings from its various mobile-based applications and a 38% increase from desktop bookings in those states.
Mobile customers in the affected states started off making bookings in three- and four-star hotels for a one-night stay. But after it became clear that the power could take up to a week to come back on, people immediately started booking multiple days at lower-cost hotels with ratings below 2.5 stars.
priceline.com learned from that incident how valuable mobile devices can be. Whether it has any other strokes of good luck going forward, one thing's for sure: The global online travel services provider just came out with third-quarter numbers that zoomed past analyst expectations. Let's take a closer, Foolish look to see what's up with this company.
3 ... 2 ... 1 ... and liftoff!
Priceline's net income shot up 111% to $470 million, and revenues soared by a spectacular 45% to $1.5 billion, on the back of an impressive 73% increase in gross bookings from its international operations.
Domestic gross bookings also saw a decent 13% increase, mainly from higher hotel bookings coupled with higher average daily rates, higher airline ticket sales, and increased car-rental reservations. Gross bookings, the total value of all travel services purchased online, rose by 56.2%.
Revenue growth also came from the company's new markets by way of Booking.com, Agoda, and TravelJigsaw, coupled with higher hotel reservations. Growth in international gross hotel bookings also benefited -- to the tune of 62% from the previous year -- from the increase in hotel supply and other accommodations. Merchant gross booking, of which Agoda and TravelJigsaw form a significant chunk, climbed by 36%. Agency gross bookings were up 61%, largely because of growth in hotel-room reservations on Booking.com.
In comparison to these numbers, third-quarter revenues at Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE ) rose by a modest 15% to $1.14 billion, but the company also suffered a 10% drop in ticket-booking volume -- which management was quick to blame on rising airfares. Another reason could be that airline companies are increasingly trying to promote their own websites for buying their tickets.
What European crisis?
Europe may be in dire straits, but there seems to be no shortage of people wanting to travel there. In its third quarter, Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW ) reported a mere 4% revenue increase to $202.9 million, but its European business had shot up by 39%. Expedia was also not far behind, reporting a 21% increase in international bookings.
One possible reason could be that Europe gets only 30% of its travel bookings online, while in the United States this figure is at 60%. The trend might suggest that more people are moving toward online travel services in Europe.
The Foolish bottom line
Along with its peers, priceline.com is exhibiting impressive growth in terms of international revenues. And the trend might continue as more tight-fisted travelers flock to websites such as priceline.com for the best deals. However, the company's performance also may be affected if conditions in Europe worsen to a greater extent. To stay up to speed with how priceline.com is performing, feel free to add it to your watchlist. It's free, and helps you stay up to date with all the latest news and analysis for your favorite companies.