We've been saying it for awhile: The Priceline Group should be renamed the Booking.com or Booking Group as its foray into Cuba highlights. The Group's lead brand gets there first although there's an option to distribute Cuba hotels through Priceline.com too.
Would it be Holland-based Booking.com or Connecticut-headquartered Priceline.com that would be the first among the Priceline Group brands to pursue and get permission from Cuban authorities to begin offering hotel rooms in Cuba to U.S.-eligible travelers?
It’s no huge surprise that it is Booking.com, which also states “that it will become the first online U.S. travel brand to offer instantly bookable hotel properties for certain U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba … ”
Booking.com announced today that it got permission from Cuban authorities and entered partnerships with hotels in Cuba to offer rooms on the island.
The Agreement Could Cover Other Brands
It turns out that Booking.com’s agreement with Cuba also enables it to distribute Cuba’s hotels through the Group’s other brands, such as Priceline.com, although no decisions have been made on whether it will do so.
Both Booking.com and Priceline.com are part of the U.S.-headquartered Priceline Group and Booking.com is the Group’s leading brand by far. International business accounted for 94 percent of the Group’s consolidated operating income in 2015, and Booking.com generated a “substantial majority” of that, the Group states.
Priceline.com, which already offers much of Booking.com’s hotel inventory, might be considered the more logical choice to service U.S. travelers traveling to Cuba because Priceline.com also offers flights, when they open to Cuba, and Booking.com is hotel-only. So U.S. travelers securing a hotel from Booking.com in Cuba would have to look elsewhere to find flights.
Asked why Booking.com led the way into Cuba and not Priceline.com, Group spokesperson Leslie Cafferty said: “Booking.com is truly a global business with operations all over the world. The brand is guided by a mission to help people experience the world and Cuba was one of a small handful of places Booking.com had not yet opened operations, given the prior laws.
“With the easing of restrictions, Booking.com jumped at the opportunity to make Cuba instantly bookable for those eligible to travel there, staying true to the essence of what Booking.com delivers to its customers all over the world.”
Booking.com, too, has the most experience among the companies in the Group when it comes to breaking into new markets while Priceline.com, which this year revamped its offering, is U.S.-focused.
Will Booking.com ever broaden its offerings from hotels and begin to offer flights?
That is certainly a possibility although the decision definitely wouldn’t be driven by travel to Cuba alone.
Another Priceline Group brand, Kayak, offers hotel search for properties in Cuba but bookings are done by through companies such as Zleeping Hotels.
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Photo credit: Havana, Cuba isn't yet an option when searching for hotel options on Booking.com but it will be soon. Booking.com