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Home >Companies >People >Sustainable travel to grow post covid: Glenn Fogel

After a year lost to the coronavirus pandemic, the travel industry is feeling optimistic again, as vaccinations get under way and pent-up demand resurfaces.

Digital travel platform Booking.com said that 52% of Indians plan to travel within the country in the medium term, while 41% plan it over a year’s time. In an interview, Glenn Fogel, president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Booking Holdings and CEO, Booking.com spoke about what travel means in 2021 and how business has impacted the company. Edited excerpts:

How has covid-19 impacted Booking.com’s business and how do you see the business recovering this year?

Without a doubt, 2020 presented the biggest disruption to modern global travel the world has ever seen and our results for 2020 were down substantially from 2019. However, travellers still booked 355 million room nights through our platforms during 2020 and we ended the year with profits at approximately $880 million in adjusted Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). With vaccines in place and pent-up travel demand, we are optimistic about business recovery and have positioned our business well for when travel demand returns. However, we have a long way to go before we reach pre-covid levels.

How will people travel differently in 2021?

People have a very strong desire to travel. We saw this first-hand in 2020 when we witnessed a strong improvement in our booking trends from the lows of April through the peak summer travel season, driven in part by pent-up demand as people came out of lockdowns. In 2021, we expect domestic travel to be top of mind and are seeing early signs of encouraging summer booking trends in the US and even parts of Western Europe, primarily in the UK and Germany, relative to what we are seeing globally.

Globally, how has domestic and international travel been impacted?

Travel booked last year was much more domestic-oriented than in prior years as many people adapted to the restricted travel environment. For instance, domestic room nights represented 85% of our reported room nights in the October-December quarter, up significantly from 2019, which was just below 50%. International travel remains extremely depressed and recovery will not be possible until government restrictions on international travel are lifted or modified for travellers who can show they are safe travellers.

What are the emerging travel trends this year?

The impact of the pandemic is changing not just our choice of destination but also the type of trips we’re most likely to take in 2021. From working remotely, to adopting a more eco-conscious mindset, to travellers immersing themselves in off-the-beaten-path experiences, these are some of the emerging trip types that will likely shape travel in 2021.

What are the main changes covid-19 has brought to the tourism industry?

We expect to see a more sustainable approach to travel in 2021 and beyond. According to our research, 96% of Indian travellers identified sustainable travel as important to them, while 76% said they were more determined to make sustainable choices when looking to travel again in the future. Increased reliance on technology and innovation has played and will continue to play a crucial role in rebuilding traveller confidence, including contactless check-ins and accelerated use of digital apps for travel bookings. Mobile bookings represented more than two-thirds of our total room nights in the October-December period and about two-thirds for the entire year.

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