Booking Holdings (BKNG 1.72%) stock, which recently rebranded from the Priceline Group, has been a consistent winner for years. An early entrant in the online travel agency model, Booking Holdings and its family of other travel-related sites have helped shape the industry for years. Changing consumer trends are creating the "sharing economy" though, and new upstart rivals taking advantage of it could pose a threat.
What is the sharing economy?
If you have ever used ride hailing services like Uber or found a place to stay on Airbnb, you have taken part in the sharing economy. The idea is simple: If you have underutilized property like a home, bedroom, office space, car, or even clothes, there is likely an app that will allow you to share it with someone else. "Sharing" essentially turns possessions into services, allowing owners to make some money when they don't need their possessions and borrowers the opportunity to use an item on-demand without making a big purchase of their own.
This isn't a new concept. Humans have been sharing things for millennia. So what's the big deal? The sharing economy has been growing fast as of late, in large part to the tech savvy millennial demographic -- the roughly 80 million people born between the early 1980s and late 1990s. That's a lot of kids; their numbers even outweigh the influential "Baby Boomer" generation. Thus, their preferences and decisions are beginning to wield power over the economy, and "sharing" is one of the ensuing trends.
What's it to Booking?
Uber and Airbnb aren't even a decade old but already sport valuations in the tens of billions. Booking still maintains a lead with a market cap of $100 billion, but some areas of business have undoubtedly been affected by the sharing economy. For example, rental car days booked, led by the company's Rentalcars.com site, have slowed to meager single-digit growth the last two quarters. Meanwhile, Uber and other ride sharing services have been growing like weeds all over the world and changing how people get around.
That being said, Booking has also been positively impacted by sharing. The largest brand in the stable, Booking.com, just announced it crossed five million homes, apartments, and other "unique places to stay" listed on its site. That puts it ahead of Airbnb's four million properties at last report and helped Booking grow its room nights booked by 21% in 2017.
Why Booking will win
Booking Holdings is a big company, but it continues to expand at a double-digit pace. It is the global leader in travel and accommodations and has taken steps to embrace the sharing economy and maintain its lead. The company also has a track record of successfully adding related services to its platform, like restaurant reservation management, and is experimenting with travel experience reservations (like tours or visiting museums), similar to what Airbnb launched late last year. Management's idea is to make Booking the central planner for the entire vacation, something it could feasibly patch together with the breadth of its offerings.
Booking Holdings has wasted no time embracing changing consumer preferences. Disruptive competitors are growing in size, but as more travelers make use of technology to share assets with each other and experience new things, the company is well positioned to capture their business.