With signs of being left behind the Covid-19 pandemic, Argentine tourism company Despegar, owner of the Decolar brand, assesses that 2022 may be the year to return to pre-pandemic levels. To start again, the company, which has US$300 million in cash, is preparing to make new acquisitions and even invest in physical retail in the country.
Attacks in the physical world must absolutely be through acquisition, according to Damien Schokin, President of Despegaro, That’s how the company started in 2019, when it bought Chilean company Viajes Falabella, which has stores in Chile, Colombia and Peru. Today Despegar manages 78 stores in these markets.
“We know that offline participation in the tourism sector is very relevant and it is to the point that our technological capability creates a different experience and brings better efficiency”, said Skokin in his first interview for the Brazilian press vehicle.
The executive didn’t set a date for this debut, but says buy options are already being analyzed. However, the idea is not to start a dispute over the number of stores. CVC, Which has around 1,280 units but has to be a direct point of contact with the customers.
For Marta Poggi, Tourism Specialist and Partner at Strategy, despite being increasingly representative in the online arena, the present moment can positively affect sales outside the Internet. According to him, there are still many doubts among the customers regarding travel. “Many people don’t want a headache and prefer to enlist the help of a company or consultant,” the expert says.
Decaller itself has suffered due to customer complaints in the country. On the Reclaim Equi website alone, the company has over 40,000 complaints in the last 12 months and still has poor ratings on the platform.
However, Decolor wants to change its acquisition goals and has cash: The company has US$300 million in cash and a good portion of that money will go to purchases. To be able to save this amount after such a complicated period, the company had a contribution of US$200 million led by El Catterton from USA and Waha Capital from Dubai.
Therefore, Despegar has the command to look for opportunities and focus on Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has bought Mexican travel agency Best Day and Brazilian fintech Coin, giving the company room to grow in trips in installments by bank slip. This month, the company announced the purchase of Stays.net, a software company focused on vacation rentals.
Despite the recovery compared to 2020, Despegar is still nowhere close to recovering from pre-pandemic levels. Last year, the total bookings done through the platform reached 75% of the total bookings for 2019. At the same time, the executive observed that, in the last three months of 2021, the company generated US$9 million in cash, 9% more. Compared to the same period recorded in 2019.
According to Skokin, it is expected that these numbers will already be recovered in local tourism in 2022, but international travel will continue to suffer due to dollar volatility and possible sanctions by countries. However, the executive is optimistic even with the possible rebound of COVID-19 in the future. “We are in a much more efficient company position than we were before,” he says.