May 20, 2020 / 7:47 PM / 13 days ago

U.S. travelers pick car rentals over flights for holidays: travel website Kayak

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks through the empty international terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., amid reports of the coronavirus, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

(Reuters) - Travel website Kayak is seeing more demand for car rentals than air travel from customers looking to avoid crowds and stay closer to home as U.S. states reopen, Chief Executive Officer Steve Hafner told Reuters on Wednesday.

For those booking flights, Kayak, which is owned by Booking Holdings (BKNG.O), is seeing a preference for cities like Phoenix and Denver over hotspots such as Las Vegas and New York, and for beach destinations like Hawaii and Miami.

“We started Kayak as a flight search engine. I never would have guessed that almost 20 years later, we have cars on our home page.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the global travel industry as lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus kept people confined to their homes, crippling airlines, hotels, cruises and casinos.

However, as U.S. states and major economies ease restrictions, airlines have said ticket cancellations are slowing and demand was improving.

SunTrust analyst Naved Khan forecast bookings for online travel agencies would fall about 60% in third quarter, compared with a more than 80% plunge in the second quarter.

Kayak is also looking at ways to show safety measures used by airlines in its search results.

“If it’s helpful to the consumer to know that American Airlines has one policy with regard to middle seats and Delta another, then we want to show that in the Kayak display,” Hafner said.

Kayak is used by millions of travelers each year to book flights, hotels and rental cars.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni

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