Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Short-Term Rentals

Booking Holdings Is Compensating Hosts and Partners for Payments Failure

4 months ago

The problem surfaced in late Summer — Booking.com’s short-term rental hosts in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America cited financial hardships because the company wasn’t paying them for guest stays.

A condo hotel that was listed on Booking.com. Source: Booking.com

CEO Glenn Fogel told financial analysts last week during Booking Holdings’ third quarter earnings call that Booking.com would begin letting partners know that compensation is on the way.

Missed Host Payments

“During the quarter, some of our partners at Booking.com experienced delayed payments due to a planned upgrade to our finance and payment platforms in early July,” Fogel said. “We’ve now cleared the backlog of outstanding payment issues related to the system upgrade. We plan to provide compensation to partners who experienced an extended delay, and we recorded this in our Q3 results. We plan to communicate to all partners who were impacted by these payment delays within the next few days.”

The company won’t specify precisely how much it would be shelling out to hosts as compensation.

A spokesperson said the amount of the payments are “meaningful, not material.”

In-House Payment System Is Strategic Priority

When the reports of missed payments for hosts first surfaced several months ago, the company downplayed the issue.

But in addition to the financial pain it inflicted on hosts, the snafu was an embarrassment to the company because it has been developing its own payments system over the last few years as a strategic imperative.

Pain for Hosts

Fogel discussed the issue with this reporter at Skift Global Forum in September.

Fogel: We did a very, very large change in our backend financial systems. Some things didn’t work so well. You do everything you can to make sure it’s going to be perfect. Wasn’t. Some people didn’t get paid a very, very, very small percentage. But even one person is one too many.

We have two types of customers. We’ve got the travelers and we’ve got the partners. And if we don’t provide good service to them, that’s on us. We screw it up, and there were mistakes. And if you don’t pay a very large company so much, well, it’s not a big deal.

By the way, in our agency business where we get paid by the partner who sends us money afterwards our commission, sometimes we don’t get paid on time either. So 30 days late, 60 days late, 90 days late, and during the pandemic, we didn’t get paid at all. Happens. This is not a pandemic, this is a mistake. And the thing is, for the smaller partners, partners that were really depending on that payment, I just felt so horrible.

Schaal: What kind of redress can you have for them?

Fogel: First thing is get their money as fast as you can, as fast as you can. And I’ll tell you, I get emails and I’ve read them and they are really heartbreaking. You just feel horrible when you do something wrong. And we have fixed it, it’s good now. But I’ll tell you, this is something where I say to the team, and I say that … I spoke out at a town hall for all of our 20 something thousand employees.

And I told them about this. I said, “Look, this is not the way we want to be. We got to do better. We should not ever, ever feel that this is OK.” Well, it’s only a small number of partners. That’s the wrong attitude. It’s always got to be, every partner counts. So the lesson from it was we have to do better.

Travel Technology

Amadeus Creates New Payment Business Called Outpayce

1 year ago

Travel technology company Amadeus said it was making a “significant investment” by setting up a wholly-owned business called Outpayce, which will focus on “delivering a smooth and connected travel payment experience across the traveler journey and accelerating the pace of fintech innovation in travel.”

It has also applied to the Bank of Spain for an eMoney licence, so Outpayce can eventually provide regulated services in the European Economic Area, with the intention to offer card issuing and Open Banking capabilities in travel.

The new division will build on the work of Amadeus’ existing payments business with the launch of an open API-based platform that helps third-party payments and fintech companies connect quickly and easily to travel companies.

It predicts 80 percent of companies plan to either match or go beyond 2019 levels of investment in fintech innovation in the next 12 months.

Hopper recently secured an extra $96 Million investment from Capital One to expand its partnership.

Online Travel

Booking.com to Test Guest ID Verification and Payment Alternatives for Foreign Purchases

1 year ago

Booking Holdings is hiring rapidly at its new engineering office in Bengaluru, India, to work on new projects such as how to verify guest identification with machine learning and new products such as alternative forms of international payment to traditional credit and debit cards.

The parent company of Booking.com has about 20 employees at its tech center now but expects to ramp that up to about 100 by year-end, according to The Times of India. The business unit will work on how to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to better manage risks and hassles in travel transactions.

The company wants to verify IDs such as passports and driving licenses by linking the company to sources of identification data and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to scan these and verify identities automatically.

That is one of the projects that the Bengaluru office will tackle, Daniel Marovitz, senior vice president of fintech at Booking.com, told The Times of India.

The team will also look at possibly building a “foreign exchange card” as an alternative form of payment to a traditional credit or debit card. Today, many credit and debit cards charge a different, higher foreign exchange rate than the lowest available on the market.

The planned Booking.com product would attempt to offer a cheaper alternative. The ambition is for customers to use the card, which will come in physical and digital forms, for routine purchases and not just for booking a hotel. It may eventually enable customers to take advantage of buy-now-pay-later and other insurance-like products that Booking Holdings might operate on its own as a financial technology player.

Both projects fit with Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel‘s vision for “a connected trip” that he laid out at Skift Global Forum in September (see video).

The news of the product testing and development dovetails with recent Skift Megatrends about the financialization of travel and how the rise of global mobile wallets are upending travel payments.

Travel Technology

Sabre Buys Payment Tech Firm Conferma Pay in Bet on Virtual Cards for Business Travel

2 years ago

Sabre acquired payments technology vendor Conferma Pay based in the UK, on August 3, the travel tech company confirmed in a statement to Skift. The travel technology company based in Southlake, Texas, didn’t reveal deal terms.

“Sabre has had a successful partnership with Conferma Pay for many years, and Conferma Pay is the basis upon which its Sabre Virtual Payments proposition is built,” a spokesperson said.

Conferma Pay provides software and commercial deals to help the travel industry move to virtual cards, where a business traveler buys each thing with a separate virtual number. So-called virtual cards can provide more secure authentication than traditional processes and more easily adapt to mobile wallets, such as India’s Paytm and China’s Alipay. (Skift has covered this in its recent megatrend Travel Payments Find Path to Painless.)

During the pandemic, Conferma Pay signed many deals and created integrations to help spread the adoption of virtual payments. In late 2020, it helped Visa launch Visa Commercial Pay, a suite of business-to-business payment solutions that strive to replace most manual processes.

Business Travel News Europe was the first to report on the acquisition.