Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel said the pandemic had no redeeming value. But his company will coincidentally be well-placed for the recovery thanks to the new consumer awareness of alternative lodging.
The pandemic has sped up consumer interest in alternative accommodations. The trend has solidified the advantage of online travel agencies offering a selection of both hotels, short-term rentals, and vacation rental side-by-side.
Fogel said he hadn’t been sure whether the pandemic would boost consumer interest in hotels or alternative accommodations, but the surge in stays in alternative accommodations means that travelers will increasingly consider them for lodging for years to come.
Fogel said Booking Holdings has 6.7 million alternative accommodations listed on its brands. Onboarding this inventory has been more expensive than onboarding hotels, Fogel said, because many owners are new to online distribution and need help. But as a long-term trend, the professionalization of vacation rentals leads to more demand for ways to distribute the inventory, which is good for online platforms.
Airbnb’s potential trading debut this year came up as a related point.
“I say congratulations, Brian [Chesky], fantastic, enjoy being a CEO of a public company,” Fogel said. “We certainly will enjoy looking at their numbers instead of just hearing what they like to release. That will be an interesting thing, too.”
Fogel acknowledged that Airbnb has excellent brand awareness, especially in the U.S., where it’s generally better known than Booking.com. But Fogel said he intends to close that gap with marketing efforts once a genuine recovery is underway.
Booking Holdings ranked at the top of 100 publicly traded companies in the August update to the proprietary Skift Health Score. The company led the pack across all sectors with an overall score of 72, a nominal gain from the 71 it notched in July.
Fogel acknowledged the crisis has been hard for his company. cut up to 25 percent of its global workforce, a number Skift estimated to be about 4,300 workers. Fogel has been in the top job at Booking Holdings since January 2017, and CEO of Booking.com, since June 2019, and this has been the toughest challenge he’s faced.
Fogel spoke humbly about the pain the pandemic has inflicted on so many people, both personally and professionally, and said the best thing Booking Holdings could do is to be ready to make the most of the recovery when it arrives.
“Getting demand to them is really the thing that’s going to save this industry,” Fogel said.
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Photo credit: A view of The Nautilus beach and ocean houses in the Maldives. Nautilus