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    Vaccine key to recovery of travel business: Glenn Fogel

    Synopsis

    Glenn Fogel said as lockdown restrictions are eased in phases across states in India, it is “heartening” to see that travellers remain optimistic and dream of future trips, even if they are closer to home.

    Glenn Fogel, CEO, Booking.com
    Coronavirus

    COVID-19 CASES

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    NEW DELHI | MUMBAI: A vaccine or proven treatment is critical for the travel and tourism sector to recover from the Covid-19 outbreak, the worst crisis it has ever faced, Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking.com, told ET in an interview.

    “The travel industry remains under significant pressure. Our reported room nights, which represent the number of room nights people stayed in (factoring the cancel rate), for the second quarter, were down 87%, illustrating that we have a long way to go before we see the levels we did prior to the pandemic,” said Fogel, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus and has recovered.

    Booking.com is a part of online travel giant Booking Holdings, which owns Priceline, OpenTable, Agoda and Kayak. In 2019, Booking Holdings registered gross travel bookings worth $ 96.4 billion.

    Fogel said as lockdown restrictions are eased in phases across states in India, it is “heartening” to see that travellers remain optimistic and dream of future trips, even if they are closer to home.

    “Despite the strict local lockdowns in the region, our data shows that Indian travellers still remain optimistic for travel, demonstrated by the properties they continue to wish-list on our platform,” he said. “We are seeing an increase in domestic searches in destinations such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Bengaluru and Udaipur.”

    With continuing curbs on international travel in India and other markets, domestic travel is starting to recover faster for Amsterdam-based Booking.com, representing 70% of its newly-booked room nights in the second quarter of 2020 and in July globally. In 2019, the share was about 45%. However, travel remains significantly below levels in 2019, Fogel said.

    “At Booking.com this has hit — and will continue to hit — our business hard, which is why last week we unfortunately had to confirm our intentions to restructure the organisation, like so many other travel companies have had to do, with up to 25% of employees potentially being impacted,” he added.

    Fogel said a strong partnership between governments and the travel sector is essential to spur growth and he is encouraged to see countries such as Japan, Thailand and Italy already taking initiatives to incentivise travel.

    “The Indian government, like many other governments, has had to make difficult decisions to protect the country, and we are very thankful for the work they are doing to fight this terrible crisis,” he said.

    He said travellers are choosing to stay closer to home and are more interested in visiting “less urban” areas now.

    “As a result, travellers are booking more alternative accommodation than in the past. In the second quarter, Booking.com alternative accommodation represented about 40% of all new bookings in the quarter globally. Diversification of offerings is more important now than ever. In a time of uncertainty, travellers want flexibility and they want choice,” said Fogel.

    Booking.com has more than 29 million reported listings and 30 different property types globally.
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