Booking Holdings - known as Priceline Group until 2018 - is one of what are now just two leading companies in online travel services, slightly smaller than arch-rival Expedia by total bookings, but significantly more profitable (at least until the pandemic). Like its rival it has expanded through a series of acquisitions, snapping up a succession of competitors. However, after several years of dramatic growth, the Coronovirus pandemic, and the resulting collapse of global business and leisure travel, caused a sudden plunge in performance in 2020, the scale of which is as yet unclear. Booking's portfolio now houses long-established US service Priceline, fast-expanding and more internationally focused Booking.com - now its single biggest business by far - and price comparison aggregator Kayak.com. Other units include Asia Pacific operator Agoda, the global RentalCars.com service and restaurant reservation site OpenTable, which operates mainly in the US and UK. Most of those companies operates more or less independently of one another. In 2017, the group agreed to acquire European metasearch service Momondo for $550m as well as UK-based airfare reseller Cheapflights. In 2018 it agreed a strategic alliance with Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing to co-promote each other services. Total revenues hit a high in 2019 of $15.1bn on gross bookings of more than $96bn before plunging the following year to just $6.8bn on bookings down by a third to $35.5bn. There was a partial rebound in 2021 to revenues of $11.0bn on gross bookings of $76.6bn. Net profit was $1.2bn (still well below 2019's $4.9bn). During the year, the group processed 590m hotel room nights, 47m car rental days and 15m airline tickets. Booking generates almost 90% of its revenues from the international market, significantly more than Expedia, and it wields a mammoth advertising budget, the vast bulk of which is spent on performance marketing, mostly search advertising or affiliate commissions. That puts the company among the world's ten biggest advertisers. However brand advertising has also risen and the nature of those ads has evolved from the joky gags that once distinguished Booking.com's and Kayak's commercials to more thoughtful travelogues. Group CEO Darren Huston resigned in 2016 following an affair with a fellow employee. He was eventually replaced by Glenn Fogel in early 2017. Fogel is also CEO of lead brand Booking.com. Priceline was one of the pioneers in online travel, originally launched in 1997 with the irrestistible offer "Name your own price" for your holiday.
Capsule checked 8th July 2020
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Adbrands Social Media 1st Jul 2019: "Live Curious: Freedom". Adam&Eve DDB continues to deliver fine work for travel aggregator Booking.com, with a new set of four ads offering vignettes of fictional happy customers who each found exactly what they wanted from their holiday search. Here are three of the best executions, entitled respectively, "Freedom", "Determination" and "Confidence". What makes them shine is the quirky imagination behind each of the vignettes. A&E have dug deep to come up with something quite offbeat for each one, with strong support from a selection of classic 80s tunes.
Adbrands Social Media 6th Mar 2019: "Live Curious". Here's the first big European campaign for Booking.com since Adam&Eve DDB took over the regional account. It's notable how the travel aggregator's marketing has become steadily less quirky and humour-led since it became the dominant player in the region. It really is about the joy of travel now, and A&E have been able to source some pleasantly offbeat local curiosities to highlight.
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Oct 2018: Ads of the Week "European Culture / Sally's Hole". Best-known in the Asia Pacific region, Agoda is one of several travel search engines under the umbrella of Booking Holdings, a sister to Booking.com, Kayak.com, Priceline and others. (You probably didn't realise it, but virtually every major travel search engine is a subsidiary of just two companies: Booking Holdings and Expedia. It's not as competitive a market as you might have thought). Anyway, here are two spots from a brilliantly funny new global campaign for Agoda from Australian creative shop BMF. We love the combination of witty visual simplicity and slightly cheeky content. It certainly beats the Trivago girl!
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th May 2016: Darren Huston, CEO of online travel provider Priceline Group, resigned after admitting an extra-marital affair with a member of staff, against the company's code of conduct. His predecessor Jeffery Boyd, now chairman, was reappointed as CEO on an interim basis. Though best-known for US site Priceline, the group's biggest business is international service Booking.com.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Jul 2015: Ads of the Week: "Wing It". Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam's ads for travel engine Booking.com continue to mature and evolve. That childish booking/f***ing double entendre has been dropped (almost) completely in favour of fast cuts, attractive visuals and a real sense of the excitement of travelling without much of a plan. Nice one. Let's book a holiday.
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