Booking.com CEO Sees Regulation Helping Not Harming Home-Sharing

(Bloomberg) -- Booking.com Chief Executive Officer Gillian Tans said the wave of regulations on home-sharing will help, not hurt, the fastest-growing segment of the travel market.

Even if strict regulations, such as limiting the number of days someone can rent out their home or barring individuals from posting multiple listings, are approved, the industry will be able to maintain the high growth rates it has enjoyed, Tans said. Booking.com, which accounts for most of Booking Holdings Inc.’s revenue, recently said it has more non-hotel listings than Airbnb Inc.

Booking.com CEO Sees Regulation Helping Not Harming Home-Sharing

“If a city today has uncertain regulation, many people don’t put their houses up,” she said in an interview in New York. “There’s so much gray area.” If regulations can provide clarity and put homeowners at ease, more of them will jump into the market, Tans said.

Booking is competing with Airbnb and Expedia Group Inc. to capture the growing market for staying in homes instead of hotels. Though Airbnb built its brand as the go-to place for urban home-sharing, Booking and Expedia have combined their traditional vacation home businesses with expansion into cities and are spending heavily on the segment.

Booking.com’s non-hotel listings grew about 27 percent in 2017, and now account for almost 20 percent of the company’s total inventory. Booking Holdings generated $12.7 billion in revenue last year.

The company is also pressing into another segment of the online travel market it traditionally avoided -- tours and activities. Booking.com now lets users book museum tours, boat cruises and other activities in 40 cities around the world, a number that’s growing constantly, Tans said.

Booking last month announced that it would acquire Fareharbor Holdings Inc., which makes software for tour operators. The rationale behind the deal was to make it easier for the tour operators Booking works with to expand their business, driving up sales for everyone, Tans said.

Tours and activities have been part of the online travel business for decades, but Booking steered clear of them until recently, focusing instead on hotels. With more people using smartphones, it’s become easier to know what consumers are looking for and to recommend activities based on factors including their location and the weather, Tans said. That keeps people coming back to Booking’s app the next time they travel, she said.

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