Amsterdam-headquartered Booking.com, one of the leading online travel agencies globally, said Monday it would invest 2.6 million Euro (USD 2.8 million) in grants for supporting sustainable tourism in 2020.
The grants would be offered under the fourth-edition of OTA’s (online travel agency) annual program “Booking Booster” that fosters travel companies with sustainable travel solutions. This year the focus is going to be sustainable accommodations.
“The 2020 Booking Booster will bring startups, social enterprises, non-profit organizations, and accommodations of all kinds together directly to explore solutions to become more sustainable,” the company said in a statement. “Participants with innovative products and services, including accommodations themselves, will have the opportunity to secure grants from the company’s €2.6 million (INR 18.5crore) fund.”
According to a recent Booking.com research, 82% of the accommodation partners that the company works with want to collaborate on sustainability, while 87% of global travelers think it’s important to consider sustainable properties when traveling.
The Booking Booster program will be executed in two phases. The first program is scheduled to commence in May for organizations with innovative products and services to help accommodations become more sustainable, and the second would be in September for accommodations themselves, including those that are just starting their sustainability journey. According to the company, the program will include “hands-on workshops” and “tailored mentoring sessions.”
“It’s not only what our customers want, but our partners, as well,” Rob Ransom, vice president of strategy and corporate development at Booking.com, said in a statement. “Bringing together products and services developed by startups and organizations from around the world with practical case studies from leading sustainable properties will accelerate our collective efforts to make every stay a sustainable one.”
Booking.com, which entered India in 2012, now considers the world’s second-most populous country as one of the top five markets globally and competes with China’s Ctrip-backed MakeMyTrip in the soon-to-be USD 13.6 billion online travel market. Despite the fact that the OTA market is primarily discount-driven in the country, it has been able to carve a decent market share for itself over the years, first, by leveraging the international presence that allows it to bring the largest number of foreign tourists to India, and subsequently, tapping domestic tourists by building the supply of not only hotels and resorts but also alternative accommodations such as hostels, beach huts, and villas.
At present, Booking.com claims to have over 55,000 properties onboard and the type of properties varies from villas to resorts. With 30 different types of accommodations, it has 880,000 plus listings or keys, of which 140,000 are alternative accommodation.
Ritu Mehrotra, country manager – India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives at Booking.com in an interview last year said the company has offered grants to six Indian sustainable tourism companies over the last three years under its Booking Booster program. These include NotonMap, which works in remote villages, bringing travelers and creating a livelihood for residents through tourism, and Global Himalayan Expedition, which electrifies remote villages in India’s mountainous cities Leh and Ladakh using solar energy.
“We are looking at tourist places—like Shimla and Missouri—where we have issues with water supply and so on. We believe these places are worth restoring,” said Mehrotra. “Apart from the non-equity grants, we also invite these companies to our office in Amsterdam and let them talk to different teams like marketing or revenue or supply so that they can learn how to build and scale their companies.”
“And really, we are not asking anything in return. We just want them to continuously work on the agenda of building sustainable tourism,” she added.