Booking Holdings on alternative stays, the name change and AirbnbNews / DistributionBy Linda Fox | March 1, 2018Share This article was originally published on Glenn Fogel, chief executive of Booking Holdings, formerly Priceline Group, hailed a good year for the company as it posted healthy fourth quarter results for 2017 with gross travel bookings up 19% year-on-year to $18 billion. Gross profit increased 22% year-on-year to $2.8 billion while EBITDA was up 23% to $1.1 billion. International operations contributed gross profit in the 4th quarter of $2.4 billion, a 23% increase compared to the same period in 2016. The company also increased its room nights by 21%, which equates to more than 116 million incremental room nights booked in the year. Booking.com added more than 470,000 properties last year bringing the total to around 1.6 million. That name change The contribution in gross profit part explains the name change to Booking Holdings a few weeks back. Fogel describes the Booking.com brand, based in Amsterdam, as having "grown into a business of significant global scale, averaging over 1 million room nights booked per day". "Booking.com drives a significant majority of our company's total operating results. We believe this name change better reflects the truly global operation that we have become today, more closely aligns our parent company name with our largest business and connects our collective brands, Booking.com, priceline.com, KAYAK, Agoda, Rentalcars.com and OpenTable under a unified name."Share this quote So there you have it. What's also interesting is his response to a question about attracting consumers direct. Travel companies aspire to much of what Amazon has achieved in online retailing as well as what the brand stands for. The fact that it has consumers coming to it direct is also a source of envy. However, they also have to contend with the fact that not everyone travels a lot and there are many ways to research travel including search engines, hotel brand dot comes and other third parties. "And we look at something like an Amazon. It's just wonderful for them the way so many people, they go directly to Amazon, and that's a great thing for us to aspire to be able to do, I don't know if we'd ever get there or not, but I certainly know that the way to try and get there is always providing a better service, the best selection, most breadth, the best prices, great customer service, getting rid of the friction, and then God forbid, anything goes wrong, anything goes wrong, you fix it."Share this quote Alternative accommodationAlternative accommodation properties now stand at about 1.2 million homes and apartments aon Booking.com, an increase of 53% year-on-year. Properties are now classified in two categories on the platform - traditional accommodation including hotels and resorts and alternative, which is for homes and apartments. Fogel says: I think that we do have a superior offering to our customers because we show both the alternative accommodation and the traditional accommodations on the same page. So when a customer is searching for what they want, they see both right there. They see the reviews right there. They get to choose among whatever they want first. And along with not only choosing it, it's instantly, instantly bookable."That's a big thing for a lot of customers. I've done it myself with some other services, where you go back and forth, back and forth, emailing."Share this quote The plan is to "aggressively" expand the non-hotel element and the company says it is investing in tools to help suppliers bring and manage their properties online. A payments platform is also in development with the company saying it will continue to invest in the initiative over the course of 2018. One of the aims is to provide partners and customers with more payment options. Transport and tours As part of building out its services, Booking Holdings aims to offer an integrated transportation offering and says Rentalcars.com and Booking.com are already working together to provide airport transfers. It's all part of the digital experiences aspiration of the company which also says it is experimenting with in-destination experiences with tests in a number of markets. "Whether you want to visit a museum or book a tour, Booking.com wants its mobile app to eventually become the center of your entire travel experience. It is extremely early days for us, but we are excited about the long-term potential in this area."Share this quote Airbnb and hotels Fogel doesn't seem too fazed by the prospect of Airbnb's march on hotels especially in the boutique segment. "We've been facing competition of all sorts for a long time. And some of our biggest competitors have very, very large supply of all different types of accommodations. I don't see that one company come in and say they're going to offer a certain number or a small number of select hotel-type properties as a big issue."Share this quote He adds that Booking will continue to focus on the serving the customer with the "best product" so they want to come to the platform.