Type any city in the world into Google and you’re bound to come across a Booking.com link. As the number-one online destination for accommodation arrangements in the world, the e-commerce company has established itself as one of the most credible sources for travel in 227 countries. Through a simple search on the website, you can find competitive prices, comparison tools, and real reviews for apartments, villas, cabins, cottages, hotels, or holiday homes. Booking.com has it all.

Interview by Kathia Cambron
Text by Jane Bradshaw

Behind the recent global strategy and operations that have advanced the website is Dutch businesswoman and current CEO Gillian Tans. She joined the team in 2002, when the company had only a small office in Amsterdam and was appointed in 2011 to her new CEO role. During her tenure, she has expanded the company to more than 17,000 employees in 198 offices worldwide. Booking.com is now the third largest e-commerce company in the world, with over 28 million listings accessible from desktop, mobile, or tablet in 43 different languages. The company itself has 17,500 affiliate and distribution partners and a dedicated team of over 17,000 employees in 198 offices in 70 countries worldwide. Over 1 billion guest nights have been booked (and counting!), averaging 1,550,000 room bookings on the website every day.

We sat down with the brilliant brain leading Booking.com to learn more about her role, inspirations, and the company.

Are you surprised how technology is changing the world?  Yes… It’s quite interesting to see how it develops. The question still is, “How fast will be good enough to really put it in front of customers?” I find it fascinating because any new technology can help to build a better experience for customers, you just need to learn a lot to see where that value is. It has definitely opened up a lot of opportunities, and it changes the way people book travel.

It took a lot of years and a lot of hours of work to build what Booking.com is today. Do you think there’s a day in the future where you will have so much technology that you will actually need less employees?  I don’t know… If you think about Booking.com, we always believed in doing one thing really well, and that’s quite unique for a company. But what you see happening through technology, and the change in technology, is that you’re able to deliver more to customers. In the beginning, [Booking.com] was only a website, and we only could influence customers during the time that they were on our website booking a property. Today, with mobile, we’re able to help customers a lot better. Because of this device, we’re travelling with customers: we can give them tips, we can help them on where to go, we can help them with maps, etc. Any new technology that comes will deliver an even better experience to customers. We’re also able to offer them attractions, offer them transportation, but we will need more people to build these experiences. I always say technology today is as good as the people making it or thinking about what we need.

Who are some leaders that you look up to or are inspired by?  My biggest example, and it has been from the beginning, is Jeff Bezos. I’ve always admired him. If you think about the drive for customers, I mean, he has that extreme [drive]. But he also puts every cent he earns back into customers. That’s how extreme he thinks about it – you can learn a lot from what he’s doing.

To improve your business skills, are there any podcasts that you listen to or life habits that you have that make you a better leader?  I think if you’re open to feedback, it makes you a better leader. I also learn a lot from the team I work with. To me, it’s really about being open to learning, and learning from others. You can get that from books [or] podcasts. I think you can also overdo it though. It’s all about being open and to not think that you know best.

 

 

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