Darren Huston ITB Berlin
6 months ago
 

Booking.com boss is clicking annoyed

Marketing initiatives by hotels chains such as Marriott and Hilton which talk up the benefit of booking direct, have not escaped the notice of Darren Huston, chief executive of Booking.com.

“It’s annoying,” he told an audience at ITB Berlin this week. Hilton’s “stop clicking around” TV ad was shown for reference.

His response was hardly a surprise and presented in a tongue-in-cheek way (“I was at a chain hotel the other week and the wifi password was ‘book direct’, as if that would persuade me). But there was a steely resolve beneath the soundbite.

“We see them as business partners, and we’ve brought them lots of business they wouldn’t have had.”

Finding that demand cost booking.com $2.8 billion in marketing in 2015.

Huston also pointed out that only 2% of Booking.com customers stay at the same hotel twice, meaning that branded hotels are able to attract new customers through booking.com.

And there was more. “I don’t think the hotels should be telling customers how to use the internet. It like me saying don’t use Google. The customers will decide,” he said.

Interviewer Philip Wolf raised another elephant in the booking.com room, namely, vacation rentals.

Huston shied away from telling the audience why Priceline Group didn’t buy HomeAway, but acknowledged that vacation rental is the hardest accommodation vertical to get right, “harder than hostels, harder than BnBs,” and that “a lower friction model” was needed.

But “in five years booking vacation rental will be as easy as booking a Marriott in New York,” he believes.

B2B is increasingly part of the Booking.com story. Huston talked about its Booking Suite as “not a big money maker but a great way to build relationships with partners.”

OpenTable got an honorary mention – Priceline Group’s relatively under-the-radar $2.6bn play to get into restaurant reservations.

“We bought it not because of what it was but what it could be. It’s been a challenge to globalise it, but we should be there by the summer.”

Earlier: Hilton campaigns to bring clicks direct

NB: Image of the talk courtesy of Andrey Belyaev

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Martin Cowen

About the Writer :: Martin Cowen

Martin Cowen is a reporter for Tnooz, based in the UK. For the past six years he has worked as a freelance writer, specialising in B2B distribution and technology.

He has contributed to a number of titles including Airline Business, Buying Business Travel, APEX and Travolution.

He has also worked on a number of corporate projects for blue-chip travel tech businesses including Travelport and Amadeus, and works closely with the press and PR department for World Travel Market.

Before freelancing, from 2000-2008 he was launch editor for e-tid.com, the first online-only B2B daily news service for the UK travel sector.

 

Comments

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  1. M

    “Huston also pointed out that only 2% of Booking.com customers stay at the same hotel twice, meaning that branded hotels are able to attract new customers through booking.com.”

    no that means they are looking for the cheapest room and have no branded loyalty – like groupon customers. And as any hotelier would tell you, these are the most difficult guests to please.

     
    • Valentin Dombrovsky

      Hm. If I’d look for the most convenient 5-star hotel with best customer reviews, I’d also look at Booking.com as it offers to compare not only price, but quality as well.
      What tool do you suggest to book best luxury hotel in Barcelona for instance?

       
      • hhotelconsult

        I would use travel guides, kiwi, design hotels, forbes to whittle down to proper hotels, then research on tripadvisor, and book direct. You are captive, being manipulated, and not seeing the whole picture when you book on a 3rd party. Not only will you get better rates direct, but you are more likely to get upgrades, better rooms, amenities, and better service just by the nature of how complex a 3rd party makes service or operations.

         
  2. Oz Har Adir

    If the hotels want more direct bookings, they only have to do three things:
    1. Improve their UX. It’s still a punishment to book on almost every brand.com website
    2. Improve their distribution. Most brand.com aren’t popular on meta, for example.
    3. Break price parity by offering lower prices direct. The easiest, simplest way. Ask Ryanair for details
    Booking.com plays its part very well, hotels don’t (at least not online).

     
    • Valentin Dombrovsky

      Good point about Ryanair, btw. Booking.com has lots of partners like airlines, other OTAs, startups, tour agencies etc.
      Do you think they would partner with each hotel individually? No way.

       
  3. Jack

    The point which should be mentioned is about the fact that b.com offers many services and assistances to guest that wont be offered by the hotel itself. Almost any unfair circumstance thatmight happen to the guest willbe resolved by b.com thats the advantage to use b.com

     
    • hhotelconsult

      Then you are effectively isolating a hotels’ ability to offer either hospitality or service by using a middleman as an inturruptive 3rd party. The hotel’s hands are effectively tied, and most travelers aren’t savvy enough to make a distinction of booking.com’s screw up vs the hotel who gets the blame and operational issues as a result.

       
    • Simona @ AliaAccommodation

      B.com will not handle NOTHING. Everything is on the shoulders of the hoteliers! From experience!
      They don’t even have a phone number for customer support to be found anywhere on their website!
      They are busy with forcing hotels to go lower and lower with the prices.
      A hotel is a not a partner with b.com, but a slave!

       
  4. Yann Ngongang

    So Huston just out’ed Hilton’s WIFI password, in public, forcing them to change it.
    Maybe they should change it to: “Dontbookpriceline” #jussayin

     
  5. Peter

    “I don’t think the hotels should be telling customers how to use the internet. It like me saying don’t use Google”

    Oh please, a hotel telling you you should book direct is no different to booking.com telling you you should book through booking.com. I really can only assume this was not meant seriously as otherwise, it’s just taking hypocrisy to another level.

     
    • Sarah

      He did say it like that, and meant it very seriously, not ironically! I was in the room listening.

       
  6. Robert

    I can understand how Mr. Huston in his position would prefer to be the single distribution channel for hotel rooms. The main added value, from a user perspective, of an OTA is the possibility to compare prices from different providers. There is no loyalty from a booking site to a single hotel…Mr. Huston doesn’t really care if a traveler books hotel A or hotel B via his website. Hotel A and Hotel B will care very very much about that though, and it is only logical and good marketing that they try and secure some direct business via direct communication with the end users.

     
  7. hhotelconsult

    They’re an intermediary. They didn’t bring the hotels business. They inserted themselves in the process. Does this guy literally believe if they didn’t exist, people wouldn’t book hotels?

     
    • Valentin Dombrovsky

      People booked hotels even when there was no internet available, so I don’t think that your point is valid. Booknig.com has brought some conveniency and transparency to the market – that’s for sure. Why do customers use it after all?
      Btw, 34 % of its traffic is direct according to Similarweb. That means that there’s a huge amount of loyal Booking.com customers and there are reasons for that.

       
 
 

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