Booking.com is a legitimate business. It’s a directory for hotels, where you can search for a location and find the best hotels in the area.
They were originally founded in 1996 when searching for vacation destinations online was a new concept.
The website is considered the 3rd most popular in the Travel and Tourism industry in the US, and the 45th most popular in the world.
Booking.com receives around 554.9 million visits every month and is prominently used by those in the United States (see also “How To Become A Travel Writer In The United States“), the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and France but they have links to hotels around the world.
Although these figures are subject to change, Booking.com is one of the first travel businesses to go online, and they are always in the top 10 for the online industry.
The website was originally formed by a Dutch student for the Universiteit Twente. His name is Geert-Jan Bruinsma and has always been a fan of using changing technologies.
Booking.com was originally called Bookings.nl (a Netherlands URL) before merging with Bookings.org.
When Active Hotels bought the website in 2006, it was praised as the best acquisition in internet history, because it was the only digital travel agency to be profitable.
Although Bruinsma is no longer involved with the company, the idea of staying topical and technologically relevant has remained.
In 2010, the company became one of the first in the industry to develop an app and made sure it was useful for people on iPod Touches, Androids, and iPhones.
In 2012 they advanced again, launching apps on iPads, Windows 8, and Kindle Fire.
New relevant technologies such as virtually walking through hotels and 3D images are also available but only with hotels that have these options already.
Criticisms Of The Company
Booking.com has been around for decades, and with that time you can expect some criticism to pop up. However, in the last 10 years, they have had 7 serious allegations.
This criticism is about financial interests. The UK has a competition authority called the Office of Fair Trading.
Its job is to stop companies gaining a true monopoly over an industry. In 2012, Booking.com along with other websites such as Expedia were told to restrict their discounted prices.
In 2015, Italy, Sweden, and France also asked Booking.com to do the same. The idea is to allow more companies to do well in the sector, and reduce job losses.
In the same year, the European Union warned that Booking.com now dominated the market. Because of these allegations, some hotels cannot show discounts on this website.
Leaking Customer Data
In 2014, Booking.com realized their website was used for “fishing” attempts. This means customers were scammed out of money as fake hotel owners were taking bookings without offering a real hotel.
The company clamped down on these fake accounts but was targeted again by hackers in 2018. Over 4,000 customers had their personal information stolen, and for 300 people that also included credit card information.
The Dutch Data Protection Authority fined the company €475,000 for failing to protect their customers from the data breach.
When you search for a hotel, the first thing that comes up is Booking.com.
In 2015, the CEO of Prizeotel (a German budget hotel brand) accused Booking.com of taking their customers by appearing above the official website on search engines.
It is currently legal for companies to pay Google for the top spot on any keyword. Booking.com has not replied to this open letter.
Asking For Aid During Covid-19
Many companies ask their government for help to stay afloat during the pandemic, and Booking.com was one of them.
However, the company asked the Dutch government for a relief payment while still paying $6.3 billion to their shareholders.
In response to the backlash, the company stopped taking payments from the government and instead laid off 25% of its global workforce. This wasn’t considered a popular move either.
The Other 3 Serious Criticisms
The last three criticisms were about charging a commission on prices that include VAT, including Israeli settlements in their listings, and using manipulative sales techniques.
The VAT issue is a matter of moral opinion. Technically Booking.com has the right to charge a commission on the whole price, but they are willing to talk individually to each company.
The Israeli issue is a matter of human rights. Because the hotels they are endorsing do not necessarily follow the human rights act, Booking.com was also in violation of international law.
They were made aware of this issue in 2020, so in 2022 they added a warning to all Israeli settlements on the website.
Lastly, the limited offers and price comparison features of the website were not clear to the customers.
After talking to the European Commission in 2019, Booking.com changed its features to make the offers, discounts, and any time-limited deal clear, while sponsored listings were labeled as such.
Despite the criticisms, it continues to do a great job of satisfying customers. They have the third highest satisfaction rate in the online travel industry, with Airbnb and Tripadvisor leading the way.
However, Airbnb doesn’t include hotels and TripAdvisor doesn’t offer to book through their website (just a search feature).
This means that Booking.com is the best directory booking platform for hotels when focusing on customer satisfaction.
Booking.com isn’t just a legitimate website, it is the best website to search for hotels in an area. It uses up-to-date technology, has the experience to understand business issues, and has great customer service.
Frequently Asked Questions
The only real downside is a slow refund process. Because the website is a directory and a third party, they need to get in touch with the actual hotel to get hold of your refund.
The same can be said for canceling or changing your reservation.
Because of the additional charges or limited deals, we suggest using booking.com to find the right hotel for you, and then contact them directly to see if they can offer a better price.
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