The online travel scene in Asia characterized by fierce competition and high stakes. Booking.com knows that it needs to sort the payment issue and make sure any lingering concerns are put to rest if it wants to stay ahead in the game in the region.
Booking.com says its problem getting payments to European and Asian hotel partners is mostly fixed and that it is even making manual payments in some cases.
“It isn’t our intention to not pay,” said Laura Houldsworth, Booking.com’s managing director and vice president for Asia Pacific. “We had planned a much-needed financial systems upgrade for the safety and security of all our partners and our customers. But we made some errors and it resulted in delayed payments.”
Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel acknowledged the issue at the Skift Global Forum in New York last month: “Even one person is one too many,” he said.
There have been reports that some Japanese hoteliers are considering pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Booking.com.
Houldsworth spoke with Skift recently about the failed payments and travel trends throughout Asia.
Travel Confidence in Asia, But The Missing Chinese Piece
Booking has a focus on growth in Asia, though China still has issues. For example, flight capacity for China is still at reduced levels.
The rest of Asia is witnessing a resurgence in travel. In the second quarter of this year, Booking.com surpassed its 2019 global figures. Asia was its fastest-growing region, with a 40% gain.
In Booking.com’s inaugural Traveler Confidence Index last year, the top three countries with the highest post-pandemic travel confidence were India, China, and Vietnam.
This year, Hong Kong was in the top slot, followed by India and China. Notably, 73% of travelers across Asia express their confidence in traveling in the next 12 months, and over 50% have no plans to alter their travel arrangements.
The India Angle
India, in particular, stands out as a highly confident market, with 86% of Indian travelers planning to travel within the next year.
The surge in Indian outbound travel has been a boon for Booking.com and the market as a whole, Houldsworth said. Booking.com has been a sponsor of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup taking place in India.
The company also introduced its flights vertical in the country last year and has launched Hindi as a language option for both consumers and accommodation partners.
According to Houldsworth, millennial and Gen-Z travelers in India are now more inclined towards exploratory and independent experiences.
Social media plays a pivotal role in Booking.com’s strategy, with the recent launch of dedicated Instagram handles for specific markets, including India.
About the need for a dedicated Instagram handle for India, she said, “We’ve started to launch localized Instagram handles in markets where it makes sense to have like Brazil, Japan and India.”
Connected Trip Strategy
Booking.com’s “Connected Trip” strategy is also yielding positive results, with a 58% year-over-year growth in flight bookings globally. A notable 25% of flight bookers are new to Booking.com, expanding the platform’s support for accommodation providers, Houldsworth said.
“Partnerships with travel service providers like Klook, Viator and Amusement have also helped us enhance our in-destination experience for travelers,” she added.
Houldsworth cites Booking.com’s collaboration with Grab in Singapore as an excellent example of how it’s creating seamless travel experiences. “The integration of services within the Booking.com app ensures convenience for travelers who can access various offerings without the need for multiple apps,” she said.
However, she clarified that Booking is not necessarily going for a superapp ambition, but certainly looking for partnerships to add value to travelers.
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Photo credit: Concern about health and safety while traveling abroad is the primary factor deterring Chinese tourists from venturing too far from home. Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd / Getty Images