Priceline preps OpenTable and B2B hotel IT
Priceline Group’s CEO Darren Huston has outlined three areas of focus for the business at the same time as its core booking.com brand continues to dominate.
The headline figures from the Q1s today show decent growth, with and without the various foreign exchange issues affecting a global business such as Priceline Inc.
Gross travel bookings came in at $13.8 billion with gross profit of $1.7 billion
But the magic number for Priceline appears to be 100 million. The number of room nights booked between Jan and March came in at 104.6 million, its best ever three-month performance breaking the 100 million barrier for the first time.
But 100 million is also the number of reservations made by smartphone over the past twelve months, according to Huston. He added that “a large chunk still happens through mobile web” and that booking.com “will always have a nice balance between web and app.”
OpenTable on the other hand is “very heavy app”. Huston said:
“While the business is growing, there is still a lot of potential ahead of us…OpenTable has now, more or less, completed its technical re-platforming towards a modern cloud-based architecture and we are executing plans to optimize the product and roll it out globally.
“Demand from restaurants and customers is very strong.”
Elsewhere, its car rental business rentalcars.com is seeing the benefits of its shift from an opaque model to a more retail, booking.com approach. In the quarter, rental car days of 14.6 million was an increase of 18% compared with the first three months of 2014 and 16% compared with the last three months.
The group foray into hotel IT, Booking Suite, driven by its Buuteeq and Hotel Ninjas purchases, is also exciting Huston.
“We are building a SAAS business. We have a sales force in place, which is where the costs are for a software business. We have specialists above the sales force and we can build a hotel web site very fast with almost no variable costs.
“So the basic Booking Suite product is free and we earn money off the transactions.
“In the medium to longer-term this will have a pretty substantial impact on our business.”
Despite these potential new and/or enhanced revenue lines, there still seems room for booking.com to grow, with Huston revealing that the site is under-indexed in countries where there is a lot of domestic travel, and that included the US.
“[Attracting the domestic booker base] is one of the growth angles for us, which is why we are trying hard in China, Japan, Germany and the US.
“Growing the US business for booking.com is a super-high-priority on my list.”
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