Booking.com boss explains why Brussels is hampering Europe’s technological ambitions

“People are looking at many different ways to book. Regulators don’t understand that over half of hoteliers’ business comes directly to them, and they have the means, through very easy-to-use technology, to distribute their rooms to many different retailers like us, or maybe Expedia. , or maybe Tui, or a wholesaler. They can send them anywhere and they do.

At Booking, there is something else at stake here. Booking Holdings may be headquartered in the United States, but its website Booking.com, the expected subject of the new stricter rules and the largest Booking company, is headquartered in the Netherlands.

For Fogel, it looks like it would make any harder rule a hard pill to swallow.

“Booking.com is one of the very few success stories in Europe,” he says. “The last thing I think anyone would want to do is come up with regulations that would undermine one of the few success stories and help many other non-European tech companies.

“It would be detrimental to technology in Europe more generally, and in the long run would prevent us from being able to develop big tech giants in the world”, interrupts Fogel. “By all of us, I mean Europeans,” he explains, referring to the fact that he’s not a European himself, but a native of the United States – dividing his time between New York and Amsterdam.

Stricter European Union rules would likely not only hurt the bloc’s technological ambitions, Fogel says. “Certainly the UK could come up with different regulations from the EU. But here is the problem, what we need is for everyone to be very careful in the area of ​​regulation. You might have countries that don’t regulate here, but if another group of countries do, it could be impacted very negatively. “

Of course, he quickly adds, there should be some regulation. “Markets don’t exist without regulation, but they have to be good regulations.” Without it, it’s just “chaos,” he says.

It’s fair to say that even without this coming bureaucracy on the horizon, Fogel is in an industry that is already in chaos. Almost nine months after many countries closed due to the pandemic, hotels, airlines and restaurants have all warned of impending meltdowns.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics this month suggest that a third of hotels and restaurants feared bankruptcy this winter.

The question now is what does this mean for Booking Holdings, which also owns the restaurant booking site OpenTable alongside its travel booking portfolio.

Fogel admits it won’t be an easy time. “We hope someone flips a switch and the world suddenly turns beautiful again, but that’s not how it will work. I’m sure there will be setbacks somewhere.

But, he’s not too worried that choices will dry up for customers. “Hotels are not going away,” he says. “Owners can lose their property, but if it is a good hotel and a good location, a new group will come. I am not at all worried that there is a shortage of hotels. Many restaurants are closing, but as soon as people can go out to eat, new restaurants will appear. This is the nature of dynamic capitalism.

“I guess I’m more concerned with the demand side of things.”


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