Lastminute.com Group says it expects consumers to start booking again in May and June, with levels back to normal in July and August.
In its full-year 2019 results presentation, the company claims it is in a good position to ride out the impact of COVID-19 due to a €113 million war chest.
The company also says it has a sufficient credit line to fund the business on top of its healthy cash position.
The group, whose brands include Lastminute.com, Bravofly and Rumbo, says its core business revenue is up almost 20% to €338 million year-over-year while EBITDA increased 64% to €71 million.
Net earnings for the group came in at almost €24 million compared to €8 million in 2018.
The company says revenue growth was driven by its online travel agency business, particularly from flights and dynamic packaging.
The group’s media business also saw strong growth but its meta business experienced a 13% decline in revenue and 5% decline in EBITDA for the year.
On the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the business, Marco Corradino, group CEO says: “Everything happening very fast - it’s one of the most serious situations in modern times.”
Prior to a sharp decline in bookings, primarily affecting Italy, from mid-February, trading for 2020 had started well for for the business, with a 19% increase to its core business revenue of €62 million and a 16% increase in EBITDA to €12.5 million.
It adds that a similar pattern is now being seen in other markets across Europe.
As a result the company has taken various steps to counteract the impact, including adapting its performance marketing investment, postponing management bonuses and freezing recruitment.
It is also anticipating financial aid from packages announced by European governments, including Switzerland, which should help it protect the workforce.
Looking forward, Corradino says the company will be in a better position than traditional retail players because of its digital focus.
“We foresee a big shift from offline to online. 50% in Europe is still offline and in any crisis there is a big shift. Not every operator will be there at the end of the crisis.”
He also says the strategy of using bedbanks to source accommodation, rather than contracting directly, also will help mitigate against any decline in bookings.
The company is also readdressing its priorities given the current situation to focus on the “long-term sustainability” of the business.
The company declined to comment further on a possible sale of a stake in the business, a rumour that surfaced in early-March when the group confirmed it was in "advanced discussions" with private equity backers.