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The Priceline Group’s culture is fairly buttoned up so the company wouldn’t think about doing Airbnb-style apartment rentals at this juncture, but if the legal hassles eventually get sorted out, then Priceline would take a hard look.
Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston much prefers Amsterdam, where its largest brand, Booking.com, is based, to the supposed allures of Silicon Valley.
“You would think it was a negative, but I’d say it’s a big positive,” Huston told the Wall Street Journal, referring to being based in Europe. “It’s almost like we’re fishing in a different pond and we’re the thing to do [for job seekers in Europe].”
“In Silicon Valley, people are walking in one door and out the other door every single day,” Huston said. “In the Netherlands, the government works very much with us. There are a few small countries in the world like that. Switzerland is one. Singapore is one. You generally feel like they’re really working hard with you to help you succeed.”
In fact, the Netherlands taxes certain “innovative” corporate activities at a mere 5%, compared with its standard 25% corporate tax rate, and some of Booking.com’s business qualifies for the tax break at least through 2017.
Huston said that Booking.com is considered “the thing to do” among tech job-seekers in Europe, and in a recent investor presentation he mused that the workforce in Booking.com’s Amsterdam digs include people representing 89 nationalities.
Booking.com overall has some 7,000 employees position in 130 offices in more than 50 countries.
In the Wall Street Journal interview, Huston, who doubles as CEO of both the Priceline Group and Booking.com, repeated the Group’s view that it has a hands-off view regarding Airbnb for now because of its regulatory problems, but thinks it could be interesting down the road.
That’s an interesting perspective from a company that announced a relatively small acquisition of hotel-digital-marketer Buuteeq June 10, and has been actively considering which big piece to add to its portfolio to go along with Booking.com, Priceline.com, Agoda, Kayak and Rentalcars.com.
Asked by the Wall Street Journal what the Priceline Group has learned from Airbnb and HotelTonight, Huston said: “Everyone’s watching everyone. We’re watching not just in travel but the entire Internet, from WhatsApp to Amazon to what’s going on with WeChat.
“Airbnb, I think the guys have done a nice job. It’s not totally relevant to us in terms of where [home-rental service] Airbnb started because a lot of what they do is not necessarily legal in some places, and we’re a public company. But they’re obviously cutting ground. The rules and peer-to-peer sharing are getting rewritten as we speak. That can be an interesting opportunity for us in the future.”
Booking.com currently offers more than 450,000 properties, including more than 163,000 “vacation rentals,” and recently launched Villas.com to increase its bookings of alternative types of properties, but for now, at least, peer-to-peer apartment rentals aren’t a priority.