Zeno Labs Live

Booking.com’s Josh Wood joins us at BTS Europe

8 October 2021

Booking.com for Business Josh Wood joined us for our first ever in-person Zeno Labs Live at BTS Europe to talk about "The Connected Trip", remote working and the collaboration between Serko and Booking.

Watch the recording or view the full transcript below.

Full Transcript

Tony D'Astolfo:
I am thrilled, today, to be joined by Josh Wood. Josh is the global head of business travel partnerships at Booking.com. Josh, welcome.

Josh Wood: Hey. Happy to be here, Tony.

Tony D'Astolfo: Now, this is our first live live, and we're here in London at the Business Travel Show. I don't know about you, but it feels great to be here.

Josh Wood: It's amazing. I have goosebumps. I can't believe we're actually here. It's been almost two years since we've been able to travel.

Tony D'Astolfo: Crazy.

Josh Wood: You know, you had the swab a bunch of times, but-

Tony D'Astolfo: I'm going to write a blog post about the difficulty in getting here. But now that I'm here, I'm happy. I got to go home tomorrow, so we'll see what that's all about.

Josh Wood: Yeah, exactly. And what's really been great is that so many other people are here too. They're enjoying it. You can hear them. You look around the room, you look at all of the various suppliers, and everyone's just so thrilled to be back at Business Travel. It's something that connects us all together, so it's been amazing to actually do this stuff in person.

Tony D'Astolfo: All right. So let's jump in, get down to business here. How's business been?

Josh Wood: Yeah, well, it's no surprise business is not as good as it was back in 2019, but we certainly see green shoots of recovery, as Glenn likes to say. He talks about green shoots a lot. And I think like coming to this event is a perfect example of that. Business traveler is returning. Does this event look like it did in 2019? No, but it's way more people than we thought would be here.

Tony D'Astolfo: It's a start. It's a start, right? We've got to start somewhere. I want to zero in on ... You guys are the largest hotel OTA in the world. You got a ton of content. I want to focus on the private accommodations part.

Josh Wood: Okay.

Tony D'Astolfo: I want your opinion about what you see in terms of business travel and whether there's kind of a move towards more private accommodations.

Josh Wood: Yeah, so what I can tell you is, I've been looking after business travel or involved in business travel, booking.com now, for six or seven years. And what's been amazing is, six years ago, we talked about, "Well, we have apartments. We have serviced apartments, bed and breakfast, those sort of things." And travel managers would say, "Oh, no. No. I'm not sure. Safety and security. We don't do that. That's not something in our program." And now, it's like, "Oh, that's great. Can we get more of it?"

Josh Wood: So, talking to all of the travel managers yesterday, they're really excited about that sort of content because their employees are demanding it. And I think it's a natural thing, right? If you're traveling for one day, go ahead and stay at the airport by the hotel. It's perfectly normal. But if you're going to be in town for 3, 4, or 5 days, having something like a service department just becomes so much easier for the employee. They get their own space. No one's coming into it. They can make their own dinner, watch something by the TV, those sort of things, and it just becomes more natural. And you have more space, so you feel more secure.

Tony D'Astolfo: How about this concept of remote workers, right? I know everybody in our company's circle, we're all remote now because of various reasons. But I think people are becoming these travel nomads, so it's got to be a nice part of a growing kind of trend in the business?

Josh Wood: Yeah, absolutely. And we can even see that at Booking. So, one of the things we've done at Booking.com is we've said that for up to 30 days a year, you can ... Well, it ends up being 20 work days, so it's a month, essentially, you can work anywhere in the world. And we see that.

Tony D'Astolfo: It's so cool. The travel company should be like that.

Josh Wood: Yeah. Yeah, it's been great. So people that haven't been able to travel home to see their families and stuff like that, have been able to take a month and go back home to wherever they're from, work from Greece. I've watched people's, what I thought were virtual backgrounds of the beach, and then, "No, no, we're really at the beach." It's been amazing watching colleagues calling from villas and stuff like that. It's been great.

Tony D'Astolfo: That's great. You mentioned your CEO, Glenn Fogel. I want to talk about a concept he talks about a lot, which is the connected trip. For some who might not get it, give me the elevator pitch.

Josh Wood: Yeah, so the connected trip is everything related to your trip, right? So it's, "How do you get to the airport?" It's flying to your destination. It's, "How do you get from the airport that you land at to your hotel or your apartment?" And then, it's everything you want to do while you're there, whether it's restaurants, whether it's activity, events, those sort of things. It's everything related to travel all in one place where you can book it all in a single ecosystem and track everything. And if you have an issue, you have one point of contact. It's pretty familiar for business travel. We're used to RPAs booking for us, and you get the folder, and, "Here's where you're going, and that's the connecting trip." But now, we're bringing that digitally, which is what's really exciting.

Tony D'Astolfo: Okay. In business travel, one of the age-old problems is been hotel-attached. So you've got an eligible trip to find that as I'm taking a trip, I booked my air, I'm staying more than one night, and I'm not staying with my grandmother. that's eligible for a hotel booking. Historically, in the business, maybe 50% attach a hotel to that. It's an age old problem. Tell me why you think it is, 2021, that we still have this issue.

Josh Wood: Yeah. So, we're the recipient of a lot of that road travel, right? So if I go into our data and I insert any company that you can think of, chances are their travelers are traveling with us for business. And they're telling us that their traveling for business. I think the problem, historically, has been, the tools that we give our travelers aren't very good. It's super easy to book on Booking.com. It's not super easy to book on a lot of other corporate booking tools. And then, the incentive is not necessarily there for the employee to use that tool because they're paying anyway and they're expensing it. It's not like the flight, where the company's paying for the flight. So I think that's a lot of it, which is why I'm really excited with what we're doing about it.

Tony D'Astolfo: I was just to say, my next question is the lead in. We have a phenomenal partnership that started over a year ago, where you're using a branded version of our Zeno product. Tell me how the project's going.

Josh Wood: Yeah, it's going really well. We've had challenges. You'll always have challenges whenever you're talking about migrating hundreds of thousands of companies onto a new platform, which is just amazing. I think one of the things to really think about is, for Booking.com, to take our customers and say, "We entrust in another platform." That's a huge leap of faith. And we only did it because we saw that the underlying technology would solve it. The user experience was better than anything else out there. And realistically, if we were going to build it ourselves, it would take us five years. We don't want to wait five years. So it was great.

Josh Wood: We had already been working with Serko before on a partnership level, so it was the perfect match of building the next generation in business travel sort of product. And I think what's been really beneficial on the Serko side as well is we have helped you guys look at, "Hey, here's what the traveler's perspective is. Here's a ton of data. Here's experimentation. Here's an approach." And we're just making business travel better for everyone. So whether they're on Booking.com for business, or whether they're there on Serko Zeno, they can benefit from that partnership.

Tony D'Astolfo: I mean, we love it. The product guys get so jazzed when they're looking at data about where people click around, how we're changing the UI, just making slight tweaks to kind of get them to that next level, make it that much easier. So, great partnership we've just started. Last question, what's next?

Josh Wood: Yeah, what's next. So right now, we have flights and accommodation by the end of the year, while rental cars in place. We should, within the next week or two, add our first rail content, and we'll expand that content out into next year. I expect to see more and more of Booking Holdings brands taking a part of Booking for Business. So we're hopeful that Agoda's content, Priceline content sits in there mid-2022 or so, which already, I can't believe we're talking about 2022. This year went by so quickly. But yeah, over the next three, four or five years, we're just going to continue to expand what you can do with it and bring more of that connected trip in one place.

Tony D'Astolfo: And we started this with aspirations to be global. There is no limitation as to where we can source this thing, right?

Josh Wood: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we're a global brand. Booking.com itself is available in 43 languages, however many countries. There's a couple of countries we're not in due to various sanctions and those certain things, but yeah, this is a global product that we're bringing to the world.

Tony D'Astolfo: All right, cool. We're going to switch gears a little bit. We're going to drop you into someplace I call the "Zeno zone."

Josh Wood: Oh, geez. I'm nervous.

Tony D'Astolfo: Some fast hits. Trying to find a little bit more about Josh, the person.

Josh Wood: Okay.

Tony D'Astolfo: So you have a critical business decision to make, and you have one phone call to make, to anybody. Who gets that phone call?

Josh Wood: Yeah, so I'd probably say my mentor Eddie Abraham. So back before I joined Booking.com, I was never in travel. I'm an e-commerce product and marketing guy. I sort of got sucked into to travel. It's been a great adventure, but it wasn't where my career started. Eddie and I co-founded a company called Ozbo, and built that from zero up to an exit in seven years or so. And I watched him do that many times with companies. He's a serial entrepreneur, and it's always great to get his perspective because he's a great guy.

Tony D'Astolfo: Sounds good. He's your go-to guy. All right, cool.

Josh Wood: Yeah, absolutely.

Tony D'Astolfo: All right. Three dinner guests, living, dead, any period of time. You got three dinner guests. Who's going to be at your table, Josh?

Josh Wood: I'd love to hang out with Richard Branson for a night. That guy is fascinating.

Tony D'Astolfo: You might have a second night, if you-

Josh Wood: Maybe, but I think he's just like a party, right?

Tony D'Astolfo: So we've got Richard Branson.

Josh Wood: Yeah. Who else should be there? Eddie will be there because that'll just be fun to. And then, a third. I'd kind of like to hang out with Elon Musk? Again, like I think it would be, certainly, an innovator. The conversation's going to go in a direction that I have no idea where it's going to go. I can figure out how to pronounce his son's name, which will be good.

Tony D'Astolfo: Good starter.

Josh Wood: Yeah. In between the two, Richard Branson and Elon, I could watch him fight over, "Hey, I got to space. Did you really get to space?"

Tony D'Astolfo: Who's going first? Yes. Yes. Okay. All right. Fine dining or dive bar with that gang?

Josh Wood: Yeah, a dive bar.

Tony D'Astolfo: Dive bar. Now, normally, you'd be in a dive bar anyway.

Josh Wood: Exactly.

Tony D'Astolfo: You'd think they'd go for that.

Josh Wood: I don't want fine little tiny things. Just give me a hunk of meat.

Tony D'Astolfo: And at a pint of beer. All right, last thing I'll ask you. Subject matter expert, been in the business a while now. Give us a prediction. Something you think is going to happen in our industry next 12 to 18 months.

Josh Wood: So, I think we're going to see continued consolidation. And we're seeing that.

Tony D'Astolfo: We've seen a lot of it, yeah.

Josh Wood: We're seeing people that start off as traditional, digital, "Hey, we don't need a TMC. If I think about TripActions, or if I think about travel perks ... Say, you know what? Actually, we do need a TMC." And I think the TMC industry, in general, has really hurt during the pandemic. There was already a trend towards consolidation, and I can only imagine that continues.

Tony D'Astolfo: All right, good. Listen, Josh, it's been a pleasure having you here. I want to thank you for joining us in our first lot, actually live and in person.

Josh Wood: Yeah, there's no virtual screen.

Tony D'Astolfo: That's correct. So I want to thank you for joining us. I want to thank everybody else who has joined us today, and hopefully, they'll join our next installment of the Zeno Labs Live. So, for Tony D'Astolfo and Josh Wood, signing off from London, here at the Business Travel Show.

Josh Wood: Thanks.

 

Have feedback for our team or ideas for other guests we should host on future episodes of Zeno Labs Live? Drop us a line.

About the Speakers

joshua-wood-booking-portrait

Josh Wood

Director of Business Travel & Head of Booking.com for Business

Josh joined Booking.com in 2014 and  is responsible for establishing and growing business travel partnerships for Booking.com, helping to bring the company’s unparalleled selection and service to business travelers. A native of eastern Pennsylvania, Joshua currently lives and works in Amsterdam.

tony-d2

Tony D'Astolfo

Senior Vice President of North America for Serko

Tony joined the Serko team in 2018 to lead the launch into the North American market. Prior to Serko, Tony served in leadership roles at Deem, Phocuswright, and GroundLink. In his free time, you can find Tony in the New York area quoting "The Godfather" to all who will listen.

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