By Backing Didi Chuxing, Travel Company Booking Gets a Foothold in “Competitive” China, Says CEO
Booking CEO Glenn Fogel spoke Monday at Calcalist’s and Bank Hapoalim’s eighth annual digital and mobile conference INSPIRE Digital@Mobile
Online travel booking company Booking Holdings Inc. plans to use its investment in Chinese ride-sharing app Didi Chuxing to get a foothold in “extremely competitive” Chinese market, Booking CEO Glenn Fogel said Monday. In July, Booking invested some $500 million in Didi Chuxing.
Booking had recently signed a deal that will see Didi’s ride-sharing service integrated into two of Booking’s applications, making the Chinese-only service available in 43 languages, Fogel said. Offering by Booking subsidiaries Booking.com and Agoda will be integrated into Didi’s app enabling riders to book accommodations directly. Didi, incorporated as Beijing Xiaoju Technology Co. Ltd., has 600 million customers, and by backing it, Booking builds its brand in the country, Fogel said.
Fogel gave the keynote address at Calcalist’s eighth annual digital and mobile conference INSPIRE Digital@Mobile as part of a conversation with Fiona Darmon, a general partner at Israel-based venture capital firm Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP). The conference was held Monday in Tel Aviv in collaboration with Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank. This year’s conference focused on the interface between the physical and the digital worlds, and on the ways in which technology is changing human interactions.
Booking is adverse to forking its offering, but the company decided to localize its offering in China, Fogel said. One of the main consideration was prevalent payment methods in China, including payment via apps like Alibaba’s Alipay or WeChat Pay, he added.
Founded in 1996, Amsterdam-headquartered Booking employs more than 20,000 people in 70 countries. Its online accommodations booking service offers 130,000 destinations in 227 countries and regions worldwide, and books more than 1.5 million reservations per day, according to company statements. The company has more homes listed than any other website, including Airbnb, Fogel said at the conference.
Booking’s subsidiaries include online travel agencies KAYAK Software Corp., Booking.com, and Priceline.com LLC. According to company statements, Booking subsidiaries reserved 673 million overnight stays in 2017 alone, and their aggregate bookings amounted to $81.2 billion last year. Before renaming itself after its most successful brand in February, the company was known as The Priceline Group. It trades on Nasdaq since 1999.
Before assuming his current role as CEO of Booking, Fogel held various executive positions during his 17 years with the company, including leading mergers, acquisitions, and strategic partnership policy. In 2013, Booking acquired KAYAK for $1.8 billion and in 2014, paid $2.6 billion for restaurant reservations company OpenTable Inc.
In April, Booking.com announced plans to expand the company’s research and development operations in Tel Aviv. The company has been active in Israel since 2014 when Singapore-based Agoda acquired online advertising startup Qlika Inc. Later that year, Booking acquired cloud-based hotel property management startup Hotel Ninjas SL, which was co-founded by Israeli entrepreneur Avi Meir and Argentinian entrepreneur Christian Eneström. In September 2017, Bookings acquired Israel-based startup Evature Ltd., which develops natural language and chatbot technologies for the travel industry.
Speaking at the conference Monday, Fogel said that Booking recently expanded its presence in Israel with new offices in Tel Aviv’s tallest high rise, the Azrieli Sarona tower, to “attract the very best talent.”
“If you want to go fishing you go to a pond where there are a lot of fish, Israel has a lot of fish,” he added.