Business travel is a natural extension of Booking.com's already giant leisure business. If it really takes hold, though, the company will have to treat it as much more of an entity in its own right than as merely a convenient add-on.
With millions of business travelers already using its websites to book hotels, Booking.com decided to finally seize the opportunity and has quietly launched Booking.com for Business, which is geared for small businesses without managed travel programs.
Company managers or administrators can create Booking.com for Business accounts for free, book rooms for their employees, or send their staff invitations and they can book the travel on their own. The administrators can coordinate company bookings and review reports by department, team or individual employees.
Employees using Booking.com for Business can also book their leisure travel there, although only their business travel bookings will feed into company reports, officials said.
Similar to the Booking.com leisure site, Booking.com for Business customers can filter the hotels they view by amenities important to business travelers, can enter an address/area they are interested in staying, and can read user reviews from other business travelers.
Ripsy Bandourian, who is the product lead for Booking.com for Business and most previously was senior manager for the commercial channel for Apple in Eastern Europe, says Booking.com doesn’t see itself trying to become another American Express or even competing with Expedia’s Egencia or Orbitz for Business.
Booking.com for Business, Bandourian said, doesn’t have any plans to offer flights and will stick with a focus on accommodations; targets small businesses without travel policies; has no minimum booking requirements, and is free to use.
Asked how a company can offer a corporate travel solution without flights, Bandourian said research shows that business travelers usually book flights first and they focus on their hotel stays some time later. Booking.com for Business, which will offer more than 600,000 hotels, including chains, independents, apartment hotels and vacation rentals, solves the problem of business travelers seeking stays that meet their needs at affordable prices.
Leslie Cafferty, a Priceline Group spokesperson, likened the launch of Booking.com for Business to Bookingcom’s recent moves to debut Villas.com for vacation rentals and the last-minute app BookingNow. Like these two initiatives, Booking.com for Business is essentially repurposing content for customers who already are on the site.
Booking.com knows it has millions of business traveler customers because users can “self-proclaim” themselves as business travelers within the Booking.com booking path, and also tip their hands when writing business travel oriented hotel reviews, Cafferty said.
Bandourian said Booking.com developed the tools for Booking.com for Business in-house and didn’t have to enter into new partnerships or make any acquisitions to do so.
Some of the online travel agencies that launched business travel offerings years ago found that that business travel required more of a high-touch element than initially envisioned and that business travel was a lot harder to support than leisure travel.
Bandourian said Booking.com already has a strong customer service component in multiple languages and didn’t see the need at this point to add a dedicated support team for Booking.com for Business.
Booking.com for Business did a soft launch several weeks ago and “thousands of companies” of various sizes and locations have already signed up, Bandourian said.
Photo credit: In this July 3, 2013, photo, guests socialize in the newly redesigned bar area during "social hour" at a Sheraton hotel in Seattle. Elaine Thompson / AP Photo