According to the latest quarterly report of the New York-listed Priceline Group, which is parent of Booking.com and Agoda.com, the company reported gross travel bookings of USD 21.8 billion in the third quarter of the year, up 18 percent year-on-year, with a net income of USD 1.7 billion, up an astounding 240 percent year-on-year.
In China, Priceline Group has recently invested USD 450 million in Meituan-Dianping, an e-commerce combination of two firms that served nearly 300 million consumers in October.
China Daily recently conducted an in-depth interview with Glenn Fogel, CEO of The Priceline Group.
How will the latest technological innovations influence your industry in the future?
In the broader sense, we're using technology to be able to achieve a better result that couldn't have happened in the past. In the customer service area, for example, using what you know about your customers to achieve a better result for them. So, I like to drink nice red wines and I like to go to expensive restaurants sometimes, but sometimes I don't. Sometimes I stay in really expensive hotels, sometimes I stay in cheap hotels. But with all the data that we can leverage to learn about me as a customer, we have the ability to better predict and serve customers. For example, in this particular situation, we should be able to understand that Glenn needs this type of hotel and he would like to go to this type of restaurant today. It's about using all of the data we have in smart ways to create a better service result for the customer.
Do you think artificial intelligence will also influence online travel as it does to many other industries?
We want AI to recreate what the old offline travel agent did. The old offline travel agent knew everything about you, because they lived in your community and they worked with you all the time. They knew all these things, such as when you would travel, and if you would arrive in day or at night. They always gave you the best recommendations based on what you like. It was wonderful because you didn't have to do so much work, and you felt good because the travel agent knew you well. That's what we want our technology to recreate, only better.
Glenn Fogel, CEO, The Priceline Group
How do you observe demands from the China market?
Certainly, a big part of our business is that outbound business (of Chinese travelers going out of the country). And next is the inbound business－foreigners coming to China. The domestic part is not as big as the others, but it's an important part of our overall business and we need to continue to develop it. When you had a good experience getting a hotel in Australia through Booking.com, you will want to use our services again in China.
How does the China market weigh in Priceline Group's global operation?
At The Priceline Group, we think overall about total growth in China. Our leaders are very aware of the importance of China and we have a lot of people who are very knowledgeable and who recognize the importance, so when I say things like "we're going to invest in China", nobody's saying "oh that's a waste of money." Our board will ask: "Is that enough? Should we do more?"
How does the surging number of Chinese travelers' outbound trips influence The Priceline Group's business?
We see more and more Chinese traveling abroad and that represents a great opportunity for our brands. For example, this summer in Iceland, and in Alaska, I saw a lot of Chinese travelers. Many have already been to Paris, London and New York so they're off to different places. The great thing for us is, we have lots of properties in Reykjavik, and we have lots of hotels in Anchorage so that our outbound Chinese customer is able to see the same thing they'd see if they went to London. So it doesn't matter if it's Reykjavik or in Beijing, we want to be able to provide that great product in a consistent manner all over the world.
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