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Leisure Travel Improves, but Biz Travel Weak: Orbitz CEO

Thursday, 5 Nov 2009 | 10:52 AM ET

Leisure destinations are recovering but traditional business destinations remain weak, said Barney Harford, Orbitz Worldwide CEO on Thursday.

“The green shoots of the recovery are coming from the leisure sector,” he told CNBC’s Becky Quick on “Squawk Box.”

Orbitz CEO on Health of Travel Industry
The financial crisis spawned the term "staycation," but there are signs that the travel industry is beginning to recover. Barney Harford, CEO of Orbitz Worldwide, shares his insight with CNBC.

(See the accompanying video for the complete interview.)

Room nights to Europe, for instance, are up over 100 percent, he said.

The company reported third-quarter net income of $7 million or 8 cents a share Thursday, compared to a $287 million loss last year, or $3.44 a share.

Nonetheless, net revenue slid 22 percent to $187 million from $240 million, mostly because the company had removed flight booking fees and hotel change cancel fees and introduced hotel price insurance.

“There’s definitely a significant desire on our behalf to improve the value proposition for consumers,” said Harford. “We recognize that in tough economic times like these right now, it’s important to do everything you can to try to stimulate demand."

Meanwhile, Florida’s attorney general recently filed a lawsuit against Orbitz and Expedia alleging that the companies failed to pay sufficient hotel occupancy tax on their hotels bookings.

“We think it’s going to have a very negative effect on the millions of Floridians who depend on the travel and tourism industry for their livelihoods,” Harford aid. “This is going to make it more expensive for people that travel to Florida.”

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