Booking.com Uncovered: Insights from the fireside with Arjan Dijk
‘Ultimately, we are all aspiring to deliver the truly connected trip. But we are not quite there yet.’
Those were the words of our new CMO Arjan Dijk this week, as he addressed our partners at Booking.com Uncovered: an exclusive event that gave VIP guests the opportunity to go behind the scenes at our headquarters in Amsterdam.
In an intimate ‘fireside’ setting, partners from across the travel industry were given the opportunity to ask Arjan anything they wanted to in a set of five quick-fire rounds.
His answers revealed unique insights into subjects including Arjan’s experience of working at Google, Booking.com’s ambitions in the US, Latin America and Asia, and new opportunities to drive mutual growth together.
Connecting the world
In the opening round, Arjan was asked about why he had decided to join the travel industry after spending eleven years in Silicon Valley. Arjan spoke passionately about his belief in the power of travel to connect people and enable them to experience new things in an increasingly polarised world.
Drawing on his own experience of stepping out of a train station in Tokyo and realising that he had entered an entirely new environment, Arjan then outlined the huge opportunity for Booking.com and its partners to make it even easier for people to experience the world.
Finally, Arjan highlighted Booking.com’s win-win partnership approach as a key factor in his decision to join the business, before sharing his belief in the importance of achieving mutual, sustainable and responsible growth together.
The rise of big tech?
One of the most popular themes was whether big tech companies could soon be serious competitors to Booking.com, based on Arjan’s insights from working at Google.
In response, Arjan complimented some of the travel products that the big tech companies have already brought to market. He also acknowledged that many tech companies had the potential to be strong in discovery and other specific elements of the travel ecosystem.
However, he noted that it would be incredibly difficult for tech companies to build a network of partners required to deliver the travel experience that Booking.com provides. Arjan told the audience that ‘to do so takes a great deal of time and trust. You need to work very closely with partners like all of you to build a truly seamless experience.’
Delivering the connected trip
When asked about the next big opportunity to streamline the travel booking process, Arjan talked about harnessing technologies like AI to deliver personalised travel offerings that could remove friction from the process. To do so sustainably, however, he advised that this would require total transparency around data usage, to avoid losing trust with partners and customers alike.
At this point, Arjan reiterated his ambition to deliver the connected trip – the ability to book an entire trip seamlessly – in collaboration with Booking.com’s partners. ‘We still have too much friction in the travel industry’ said Arjan, ‘people still have to fill in too many forms over and over again to complete a booking, but we can’t remove that friction on our own.’
Achieving global growth
Many of the partners in attendance were curious about Booking.com’s plans for growth in specific regions around the world, including the US, Latin America and Asia Pacific.
Arjan emphasised that these geographies are too diverse to be considered ‘regions.’ He used the examples of Tokyo and Sydney as cities that could be bracketed together under the APAC banner, but are completely different in style and culture.
To truly achieve cut-through in these noisy geographies, Arjan emphasised the importance of a good product fit, coupled with strategic marketing that accounts for individual tastes across such large areas.
At this point, Arjan returned to the importance of working with partners to build trust within a particular geography. By doing so, he explained that Booking.com could better understand local cultures, and offer tailored solutions that can deliver to individual expectations and preferences in a sustainable way.
The final question centred around whether there was one momentous decision or moment in his career that brought him to the role of Senior Vice President and CMO at Booking.com.
Arjan took the opportunity to close a highly engaging session by focusing on the momentous and inspirational individuals that he’d worked with to date, before turning the attention to the partners in the room.
He stressed the importance of constantly searching for opportunities to add value to the world, and of finding a company that shares that ethos. In Booking.com, Arjan saw the perfect opportunity to work with a vast network of partners to achieve the connected trip and grow together, and he finished by looking ahead to the future of Booking partnerships.