Malena Gufflet (Booking): “Booking imagines a return to normal at the end of 2023, even for the Paris Olympic Games”

The Managing Director France of Booking looks back on the new travel habits observed since the start of the pandemic, the group’s digital projects and the future of tourism.

JDN. How does Booking perform in 2021 compared to the previous year?

Malena Gufflet, Managing Director of Booking France. © Booking

Malena Gufflet. Booking business performed better in 2021 than in 2020. We are pleased to see steady improvement. The third quarter of 2021 was very strong, especially in Europe. Third quarter revenue, which is the highest each year, was $4.7 billion in 2021 for Booking Holdings. This is double that recorded in the second quarter. Nightly reservations increased by 44% compared to the same period in 2020. This confirms a strong recovery at the end of the year, enabled by the security and legislative environment.

What travel and booking habits have you noticed this year and how does Booking support these new trends?

Overall, in France and worldwide, travel remains mainly domestic. Booking behaviors are changing as two thirds of overnight stays were booked from mobile devices in the third quarter of 2021 and the majority of them are booked via the mobile app. For the first time, we even surpassed the 100 million monthly active users mark on the app. Mobile will continue to take up space and we will continue our efforts to offer the best possible experience. We also notice a need for flexibility in terms of cancellation and reimbursement, which we will continue to respond to by supporting our partner establishments. In 2022, travel in the service of well-being is one of the major trends that have been sensed.

“In 2022, travel in the service of well-being is one of the major trends that have been sensed”

What projects did you carry out in 2021 in association with your partner establishments?

At Booking, we took advantage of the different periods of confinement between 2020 and 2021 and the slowdown in tourism to reflect on the responsibility of our company. This year, we implemented two initiatives. The first was to make all of our partners aware of our Travel Proud project. The goal is to defend the LGBT cause and offer this community a more inclusive experience within the establishments reserved via Booking.com. These establishments have a badge visible on our site.

The second initiative concerns our Sustainable Travel Establishment badge intended to promote establishments that carry out sustainable and responsible initiatives. We have selected 32 of them, divided into five themes: waste management, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, water management, support for local communities and nature protection. We are committed to promoting sustainable development by supporting our partner establishments.

You took up your duties in February 2020, a few weeks before the first confinement. What are the digital projects that have occupied you since this period?

Our ambition is to offer the best possible experience during research but also from a technological point of view, through a totally multi-service offer. Accommodation remains Booking’s historic core business. For this reason, we want to build on this know-how by consolidating it and strengthening our leadership in the alternative accommodation segment such as chalets or private homes. But we must also support all aspects of transport, attractions and catering by linking all of this multi-service dimension to payment in order to offer the best tailor-made trip.

In 2020 and 2021, we carried out major projects in this direction, such as the partnership with TUI and its subsidiary Musement in June 2020. Since then, we have gradually integrated 70,000 attractions and activities around the world which will soon be bookable via Booking.com. This year, through Tripadvisor’s Viator subsidiary, we’re adding 400,000 tours and activities worldwide. Finally, this fall we acquired Etraveli Group, a global supplier of flight reservations, with the aim of completing our flight offer.

Before the crisis, France was the world’s leading tourist destination. The Paris Olympics are fast approaching. What role can Booking play in this international event?

Until 2019, France welcomed 90 million international tourists each year. Our wish is to reposition France in its first place by promoting its geographical and accommodation diversity. Indeed, we are starting to think about Paris 2024 and are in the process of welcoming all tourists, even before the Olympic Games. From 2022, we hope that tourists from other continents, who have not been very present this year, will travel to France. Our role is to attract and stimulate demand in France and around the world through our marketing campaigns.

So you seem optimistic for the coming year

It is true that we remain very optimistic about the current situation despite the spread of the Omicron variant. But we remain optimistic because 2021 went better than 2020 and if we observe the curve since March 2020, it is rising, slowly but surely. Compared to the reference year 2019, we have no growth outlook for 2022. We rather imagine a return to normal at the end of 2023, or even for the Paris Olympic Games. Until then, we hope that tourism will continue to do better thanks to vaccination.

A graduate of the Leonardo da Vinci School of Management and the University of Coventry in England, Malena Gufflet began her career at Les Collectionneurs, before joining the AccorHotels group for nearly ten years. She then became Sales Director of La Maison Options, before joining Booking.com in February 2020.

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Malena Gufflet (Booking): “Booking imagines a return to normal at the end of 2023, even for the Paris Olympic Games”