* Bookings in May were 28% below 2019 levels
* Recovery in bookings heralds recovery of airline passengers
* Leisure travellers are booking vacations in droves (Adds comments from CEO, additional data)
MADRID, May 27 (Reuters) - Online travel group eDreams Odigeo said on Thursday bookings had picked up dramatically since April with the easing of travel restrictions that tripled its annual net loss last year.
There have been “clear signs of market recovery” in April and May, the company said, led by the United States where business is now only 20% below 2019 levels.
Bookings, which were 70% down from 2019 during the January-March period, have rebounded to just 28% below their pre-pandemic levels in May, eDreams Chief Executive Dana Dunne told Reuters.
The increase heralds a partial recovery of passengers boarding airliners, many of which are still grounded due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, which have put the brakes on global air travel for over a year.
“These are very, very significant increases,” he said. “A booking means a passenger could travel tomorrow, next week or next month.”
Dunne stressed that eDreams mainly handles leisure travellers and that his company has gained significant market share during the last year, contributing to the increase.
“This improvement shows that travel demand is there, as more people are vaccinated and travel restrictions lifted, travel activity tends to pick up very quickly and meaningfully,” he said.
While business travellers have adopted online alternatives to face-to-face meetings, leisure travellers value the excitement of tourism, which “cannot be replaced by technology,” Dunne added.
The company’s net loss widened to 124.2 million euros ($151.5 million) for the year to March 31 from a loss of 40.5 million reflecting the impact of the pandemic. Adjusted net loss was 86.8 million euros compared to an adjusted profit of 34.7 million euros a year ago.
The company’s revenue margin, its top line indicator, plummeted 79% to 111 million euros.
Although eDreams reduced costs significantly in the last year, they are likely to rise again as business resumes.
Dunne said a subscription model, through which people pay around 55 euros a year for access to better prices, was thriving.
Subscribers rose 58% in the fiscal year and now number around 1 million, a total that is set to double by 2023.
$1 = 0.8197 euros Reporting by Inti Landauro; editing by Jason Neely and Philippa Fletcher