HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel said
that the customer-service benefits promised in the so-called "connected trip" -- using technology to pull together a complete
vacation in one booking -- would encourage users to come directly to Booking
and be a hedge against competitors like Google.
"The best way to make
sure we have a [strong] future is to get people to come to us direct," he during
an on-stage interview at the Phocuswright Conference. "And the way to get them
to come direct and keep coming back is to provide the best service you can,
really give somebody something that's differentiated. And that's why we keep
pushing this connected trip."
He added: "Yes, you have to have great price, you have to
provide value, but you want to add more. As the biggest player in the space, we
have the resources, we have the capital, the engineers, the technologists, the
AI specialists. Use that technology, really create something. And we can afford
to do it."
In the connected-trip concept, a flight and reservation for
six, for example, would prompt Booking to offer a minivan for transportation,
attractions/tours and restaurant reservations from OpenTable.
And a flight delay would set off a cascade of changes: an
alteration in the car pickup and restaurant reservation. If a later reservation
can't be obtained, the customer would be offered choices of other restaurants.
"So when we're sitting here next year talking about the
progress of the connected trip,” Phocuswright senior analyst Lorraine Sileo
asked, "what would you say?"
"I'd say, we’re
continuing to make progress," Fogel said.
Fogel also talked about creating a merchandizing ability for
suppliers to put in offers. If a restaurant or attraction needs to stoke more
demand, they can directly add a discount rate. "It's early days, but I like
what I see," he said.
Of Booking's 28 million accommodations listings, Fogel said,
6.2 million were in the home and apartment rentals category. Home rentals and
hotels are in the same search result. "People who come to our site thinking
they want one type of accommodation end up buying another," Fogel observed. "It's
a very powerful effect."
Technology could help in another, old-as-time problem in the
hotel industry: Overbooking. Fogel used a portion of his time on stage telling
his story of how the conference hotel, the Diplomat Beach Resort, tried to "walk" him to another hotel because the Diplomat was full. When he was checking in late in the evening, the clerk told Fogel the hotel had one room left and it was for Google managing director of travel Rob Torres, who happened to be checking in at the same time.
As it turned out, Fogel conveyed his displeasure to a manager, who ended up informing Fogel there was a room for him after all. But Fogel was mystified why a hotel would infuriate a paying guest.
Fogel suggested a simple solution would be for the hotel to
text or call travelers about an overbooking situation before guests show up at the
desk, and offer compensation for their trouble. "It's not that hard," he said.
After his anecdote, Fogel turned the discussion directly to
resort fees: "You go through the whole funnel and there’s a resort fee at the
end of the darn thing," he said.
Fogel said that government regulations could level the
playing field and meet consumers' expectations for a fair price. As an example,
he pointed to "clear" rules about the display of airfare, taxes and fees.
He added that the resort fees cut back on agent commissions because
the hotel pays on the room rate, not on the extra fee."That's completely
"I'd like to see industry just do the right thing," he said.