What happened

Shares of Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) were moving higher today after the leading online travel agency posted better-than-expected revenue in its second-quarter report, showing the company making progress in its pandemic recovery.

As a result, the stock closed up 5.9%.

A traveler with luggage in an airport.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Revenue in the quarter nearly doubled sequentially from the first quarter to $2.16 billion. That beat estimates at $1.9 billion, but was still down 44% from 2019 levels.

Booking has been spending fairly aggressively on marketing in an attempt to gain market share during the pandemic so the company posted an adjusted loss of $2.55 per share, which was worse than the analyst consensus at a loss of $2.10. The company was profitable with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, or EBITDA, of $48 million.

"We are encouraged by another quarter of meaningful sequential improvement in booking trends with second quarter room nights increasing 59% versus the first quarter of 2021, primarily driven by stronger results in Europe and in the U.S.," CEO Glenn Fogel said.

Fogel also stressed the "Connected Trip" -- or booking accommodations, flights, and rental cars altogether for customers -- as a key focus of the company and a competitive differentiator.

Now what

Booking declined to give guidance due to the volatility in the travel market, especially as the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads. The company did acknowledge that booking trends pulled back in July relative to June, which is unusual as the third quarter is generally the company's busiest due to peak summer travel. Still, the company expects Q3 to be stronger than Q2 due to weakness earlier in the second quarter.

Rival Trivago said in its report last week that headwinds from the pandemic are likely to persist into 2022, and Booking should experience similar challenges since the two companies compete in the same markets.

Still, the better-than-expected revenue growth was a positive sign as was its forecast that Q3 will be stronger than Q2. A full recovery may still be several quarters away for the travel stock, but picking up market share looks like a smart strategy during the crisis.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.