“Five Questions” is a regular feature of DubaiBeat.com. Successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and companies tell us about their experiences and stories in a Middle East context.
Sabrina Costermans is the Middle East Manager of Booking.com. She joined Booking.com in 2002 at the company’s head office in Amsterdam as Account Manager Belgium/Luxembourg. In 2006 she moved to Dubai to set up the local office for the Middle East region where she is responsible for all aspects of new business development. Sabrina holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Tourism Management and Consultancy from the NHTV Breda, The Netherlands.
Tell us briefly what booking.com is about. Why would a Middle Eastern traveler come to your website for booking instead of asking the travel agency next door?
Booking.com has a wide choice of over 30,000 hotels that are bookable online generating an instant reservation confirmation. Travellers can choose from a wide range of properties whether seeking small guesthouses or 5 star luxury hotels, not only in key cities but also in many hidden regional destinations across Europe in particular. Furthermore, guests pay the hotel directly upon checking out - there are no upfront fees. In addition, there are over 1 million guest reviews left by previous guests that have booked and completed their stay via booking.com. This is a valuable tool for customers to help assess the suitability of a hotel for their needs.
Thinking as a hotel manager, why should a hotel in the Middle East be a part of your offering?
Booking.com has over 20 million unique users a month, thus offering hotels access to a whole new source of potential reservations. By promoting hotels on our own site and over 3,000 distribution partner sites, we can offer huge visibility to properties to help complement their own sales initiatives. Furthermore, hotels have full control over their rates and availability which they manage on our online hotel administration system. This provides them with the flexibility to open/close out room availability, set their rates which will adjust instantly across our site and all our partner sites whenever they are changed. Finally, there are no fees and guests pay the hotel directly upon checking out. Booking.com then sends a commission invoice to the hotel on a monthly basis for all stayed bookings, providing a win-win partnership.
A company like Google has initially selected Cairo for its Middle Eastern operations. What was your reasons to choose Dubai?
Dubai is at the hub of the hospitality industry with continuous growth and development at an astounding rate. As a result, Booking.com decided to focus its Middle East expansion initially on the Gulf States and Dubai was the natural choice of location for our office.
Based on your experience in Europe, what sort of partners, online or offline, would you be most interested to have in the Middle East? (Resellers, Sales Affiliates, Marketing Partners, ...?)
Booking.com has a varied affiliate partner programme, pursuing all types of channels varying from airlines, travel agents, tourist boards or destination guides. For example we currently work with: Via Michelin, Charles De Gaulle airport, Eurotunnel, Visit Britain, YellowPages (UK), as well as many small and medium sized companies. We currently work with over 3000 distribution partners.
Our last question is usually an unusual question: When was the last time you worked at the office in a weekend?
Office - Home … Home - Office …. There’s not much difference these days with an internet connection!
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