TORONTO — Online travel agency Booking.com has set up shop in Toronto with a hiring mandate for 200+ customer service reps in 2017 and a total of 600+ over the next four or five years.
The company has 187 offices in more than 70 countries, with some 16 call centres. In Turkey, the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies has so far succeeded in blocking Booking.com from offering Turkish hotels to Turkish consumers in a court case that cites “unjust competition against travel agencies.” Booking.com is making moves to appeal the decision.
Meanwhile the company is testing out its Booking.com for Travel Agents trade platform, with tools the company says will help agents make and manage bookings for clients. It says travel agents who join the platform will be eligible for similar partner benefits as all Booking.com affiliate partners. The company currently has some 12,500 affiliates.
The Toronto call centre, the company’s first in Canada and fourth in North America (three in the U.S. are located in Grand Rapids, Orlando and Seattle), occupies 53,355 square feet on most of three floors at 70 University Avenue in Toronto’s downtown core. The space is tricked out with all the bells and whistles that companies attracting a high ratio of young workers and Millennials offer these days, including a Ping Pong table and canteens stocked with snacks. There are also rows and rows and rows of computer monitors and chairs, as far as the eye can see. The new customer service reps began their training a few weeks ago.
Atlanta and Miami were also on the list as possible sites for the call centre. The company says it chose Toronto in part because of the city’s diverse population. Booking.com offers service in 43 languages.
Bookings.com was sold to OTA behemoth The Priceline Group (parent company of Kayak.com and Priceline.com) for US$133 million in 2005, nine years after its launch in Amsterdam. Booking.com says it now has 1.2 million active properties in 220 countries and 1.2 million room nights booked every 24 hours.
Managing Director Todd Dunlap, who was at the opening of the Booking.com Toronto office yesterday, says Booking.com handled millions of contacts in 2016. Some of those were from business travellers and corporate travel agencies. “We discovered one in five of our bookers were booking for business. So we’re looking at optimizing and growing that side of the business.”