CarTrawler generating over two-thirds of its pre-Covid revenue

Travel tech company reports €37.3m loss but says bookings are strong

CarTrawler chief executive Cormac Barry. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

CarTrawler chief executive Cormac Barry. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Irish travel tech company CarTrawler is now generating more than two-thirds of its pre-Covid revenue but says it does not expect to be back at 2019 levels until 2023 at the earliest.

Speaking to The Irish Times, chief executive Cormac Barry said the company has now recorded eight months of consecutive growth as it sees continued recovery in travel. However, he added that while things have largely returned to normal in the US, Europe continues to lag at about 60 per cent of pre-Covid levels and with a full recovery unlikely until next summer.

His comments come as newly filed accounts show revenue fell by 65 per cent to €72.3 million from €205.3 million in the year to the end of September last due to the coronavirus pandemic, as car reservations tumbled by 62 per cent.

The company recorded a €37.3 million loss versus a €4.85 million profit a year earlier.

Dublin-headquartered CarTrawler makes software used by airlines and travel partners to connect to car rental, airport transfer and lift-hailing providers. Founded in 2004, its customers include American Express, EasyJet, Hotels. com and Emirates.

British private equity group TowerBrook took control of CarTrawler in return for a €100 million cash injection last year after the company was thrown into emergency debt restructuring talks due to the grounding of airline fleets globally amid the pandemic.

Recovery

Mr Barry said while the Covid crisis continues to impact the travel sector, it is recovering, with revenues in the US consistently higher than its pre-pandemic levels since April due to pent-up demand from consumers. He added that CarTrawler is now seeing signs of a recovery in Europe with the company seeing increased demand on rentals due to car shortages, a dynamic it expects to continue in the medium term.

CarTrawler recently announced 50 new jobs, the introduction of a new equity scheme for staff, and a redesign of its Dublin headquarters to facilitate hybrid working. It also expanded a car rental partnership with Uber to allow US consumers rent cars.

Mr Barry said the company is working on a number of new and existing partnerships and was looking at all options, including partnerships with car sharing operators. He added that the company is also intending to develop a green channel for its website, allowing customers to select the most environmentally friendly car options.

Chief financial officer David Cotter said in terms of its financial performance for the year to the end of September last, CarTrawler had “planned for the worst”.

“Obviously our revenue was down and we generated a loss that did come in ahead of our expectations,” he said. “More importantly we’ve seen a continued recovery in trading and the business is back to profitability now.”

Mr Barry said while the pandemic is far from over, he is hopeful that the travel sector will continue to rebound.

“Underpinned by the recent investment, CarTrawler is in a robust financial position with no external debt and is well positioned to benefit from the recovery in travel and continue on the upward trajectory demonstrated prior to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.