Kayak, OpenTable, and Agoda have laid off employees. The flagship brand, Booking.com, initially took Dutch government relief money that forestalled downsizing, but has opted not to extend it. Amid other restructuring moves under way, that means layoffs are likely on the agenda as Chairwoman Gillian Tans re-ups.
In a surprise move, Booking.com chairwoman Gillian Tans has extended her employment contract to 2021, a year longer than expected, Skift has learned.
The move comes as Amsterdam-based Booking.com declined to apply for an extension of Dutch government relief, a move that likely means layoffs are coming.
“Our decision not to apply for an extension of the Dutch government support is rooted in the fact that as we continue to look at what we need to do to get through this crisis, short-term adjustments alone will likely not be enough to ensure our business is sized and structured for the new reality of substantially reduced travel demand,” said Booking Holdings spokeswoman Leslie Cafferty.
Booking.com is by far the largest brand in the Booking Holdings portfolio. Sister companies Kayak and OpenTable executed furloughs and layoffs in April impacting around 400 employees, and Asia-based Agoda laid off about 1,500 staff in May.
Dutch-based Nrc.nl reported last month that Booking.com and its internal works council are in talks about a “social plan” for laid off workers, and “hundreds of Booking employees have joined the FNV union in recent weeks.”
Tans Had Been Due to Depart
Tans transitioned from Booking.com CEO to its chairwoman on June 26, 2019 when Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel took on the additional role of Booking.com boss, and Tans’ contract was due to expire June 30, 2020.
But Tans, who’s been working on several projects for the company, came to terms with Booking to stay on as Booking.com chairwoman through 2021. The terms of her contract extension have not yet been made public.
In 2019, the year that Tans served six months as Booking.com CEO and the other half year as chairwoman, her total compensation was nearly $12 million. Her transition agreement called for a euro 50,000 ($55,800) annual salary, a euro 1 million ($1.1 million) bonus, and a restricted stock grants of $1.5 million that vested in May 2020.
In her tenure, Tans has been an outspoken proponent of workplace diversity, such as in this recent Out of Office podcast. An early employee of Booking.com, Tans discussed some of the lessons from that career journey, as she did as well in 2018 in Skift’s The Oral History of Travel’s Greatest Acquisition, Booking.com.
Booking.com Leadership No Longer as Dutch
Tans, who is Dutch, as were the early leaders of Booking.com, decided to remain at the flagship business unit as its leadership is getting increasingly diversified — meaning less Dutch.
Pipijn Rijvers, head of accommodation at Booking.com and former chief marketing officer, is in the process of transitioning out of the company.
“After more than 11 years with the company, Pepijn will be shifting into a strategy role to help advise Glenn and the leadership team as we begin to emerge from the crisis and shape the business for the future travel environment,” Cafferty said. “Eventually he plans to move on from Booking to spend more time with his family, but for now he’s still working alongside Glenn and leadership.”
In a restructuring move, James Waters, senior vice president of commercial operations at Booking.com, is taking on the additional role of heading the accommodations business unit, which includes attractions as a small piece of it.
That would leave only Chief Product Officer David Vismans, Tans and Chief Marketing Officer Arjan Dijk as the only remaining Dutch in leadership at Booking.com. This isn’t necessarily a negative and reflects the global nature of the business unit. The other executives are from Brazil, the United States, Argentina, the UK, Spain and France.
“So leadership is quite reflective of our employee and customer base being a very international company,” Cafferty said.
There has been chatter on a private Booking.com Reddit forum about the changing of the guard.
“Yeah, the old school crew has left the building so it was expected Pepijn would follow,” said one commenter, who added that company culture is getting more “corporate.”
In other restructuring moves at Booking.com, it has shuttered several elements of its BookingSuite product offering for hotels. The discontinued features include WebDirect, BookingButton and RateIntelligence. There were a relatively small number of partners using these features, and Booking decided to focus efforts on core products during the Covid-19 recovery.
Correction: Chief Marketing Officer Arjan Dijk is another Dutch member of the Booking.com leadership team, and wasn’t initially included among the remaining Dutch members.
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Photo credit: A Booking.com exhibit at Web Summit 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal November 5, 2019. Web Summit / Flickr.com