Exclusive Interview – Gillian Tans – President & CEO – Booking.com
With record numbers of people travelling, especially across international borders, competition to acquire and convert customers has reached unimaginable intensity. Consolidation of brands from Europe to North America and Asia adds further complexities. Consumer behaviour and technology change so rapidly now, new strategies can become obsolete in months. Our world, our businesses and our lives are being rearranged in ways we don’t fully understand. Tomorrow, at the ITB Berlin Convention, as part of a series of high-profile interviews granted to travel technology icon Philip C. Wolf, Gillian Tans, the influential CEO of Booking.com will be shedding light on these unprecedented changes and providing invaluable insight for the tourism and hospitality markets of tomorrow. In the run-up to tomorrow’s on-stage interview, ITB Berlin News asked Gillian what she sees as being the biggest changes affecting the industry today…
We’ve seen how mobile technology and the increasing pervasiveness of smartphones around the world is continuing to shift consumer behaviour and shape new expectations. From our research at Booking.com, we’ve found that 44% of travellers already expect to be able to plan their holiday in a few simple taps of their smart phone and over half (52%) expect their use of travel apps to increase in 2017. If we couple that insight with what we see in terms of the rapidly evolving advances in AI and machine learning across industries, technology is poised to fuel an even more demanding and impatient traveller in the coming years. As such, consumers are increasingly looking to their favourite apps to be more than simply functional. They expect their devices to deliver answers to specific needs in real time, eradicate potential bumps along the road and to enhance their experiences with recommendations and short-cuts they haven’t even thought of yet. The new possibilities these emerging technologies offer in terms of applications for our industry are incredibly exciting and will definitely be pivotal in terms of how we all travel in the future.
Booking.com for travel agents sounds like a contradiction in terms. How did you come up with this idea, and what do you hope to achieve?
At Booking.com, our mission is to empower people to experience the world. No matter how our customers and partners come to us, we want to make sure that we’re delivering the most seamless product experience and tailored services possible. To that end, over the years, we’ve seen increasing numbers of professional travel agents using our Affiliate Partner Programme to make bookings for their clients. In order to better meet the needs of these partners and their customers, we decided to develop a platform designed just for them. By leveraging the technology and infrastructure we’d already developed for Booking.com for Business, we adapted it to give travel agents the visibility and insights that they really need to manage multiple bookings for their clients in one user-friendly interface. This tailored extension of our Affiliate Partner Programme reflects the way in which we’re constantly innovating and customising our product to meet the evolving needs of the different types of customers who come to Booking.com.
Sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly impor tant . What is Booking.com doing to foster sustainable tourism?
The subject of sustainable tourism is one that is near and dear to our hearts at Booking.com. We not only want to help travellers to explore and experience more than 100,000 unique destinations all over the world, we also want to contribute to the ongoing health of these same destinations so that future generations can continue to enjoy them for years to come. In addition to the work we’ve been doing for the past three years as part of our Booking. com Cares Volunteer P r o g r a m m e, w h e r e Booking.com employees contribute their time and expertise on projects with our NGO partners around the world, this year we’re also launching a new accelerator programme for start-ups in sustainable tourism called Booking. com Booster. Our aim with this initiative is to identify, mentor and help fund promising start-ups that are seeking to have an innovative, positive impact on the global tourism industry. By investing our time, expertise and capital into these ventures, we can work together with them towards a more sustainable future for the global travel industry, exploring and learning how best to protect the future of the destinations we love