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Green travel: Booking Holdings launches a new sustainability badge for accommodations

Glenn Fogel, Booking Holdings CEO, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the travel company's new feature to help consumers find hotels and accommodations that are implementing sustainability practices.

Video transcript

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- The travel industry is bouncing back from its COVID-induced slumber, and that means travel companies are stepping up their game to win your business. Booking Holdings, which is the parent company of sites including Priceline and Kayak, just launched its Travel Sustainable badge for climate-conscious travelers. And joining us now is Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel.

Glenn, always good to see you. So talk to me about this badge. What are the key metrics that a hotel or property has to achieve in order to earn this sustainability badge?

GLENN FOGEL: Yeah, well, thanks for having me. And we are so excited about this, really helping make sure that consumers who want to travel sustainably, they know where they should go. And that way we're doing this is working with the accommodations, making sure that they're able to do the things that we think are important for sustainability.

Five categories. First one is waste. Second one is energy and greenhouse gases. The third thing is water-- what are they doing in terms of the water use. The fourth thing is supporting the local communities. And then, finally, we want people to protect nature. Those five things-- those five categories-- are what we ask, what are the combinations doing in this area? We work with them, and we have 32 factors, metrics, underneath those five categories that we measure and we score and put into an algorithm, have it come out, and see whether or not they qualify for that Travel Sustainability Badge.

And if they do, it's great. People will be looking for those properties. If not, we'll work with them. We'll help them. We'll show them the playbook-- how can they improve and get that badge?

- But then, sir, exactly how is that policed? Who is the arbiter? Isn't it hard to sort of oversee all of the metrics all across the establishments?

GLENN FOGEL: Yeah, no, that's one of the big things that everybody worries about. You know, hotel says, hey, we do this. And then, do they really do it or, do they not do it?

So we have a couple of different methods that we go through. The first thing is, if the hotel is working with a third party consultancy that does all sorts of things in terms of sustainability, and they give a certification, well, the hotel sends us the "shertification"-- "cer-tiffi-cation"-- certification, there we go. And that's what will get them that badge.

But if they don't have that, they answer the surveys and stuff, and we can have someone, depending on certain properties whether we'll send somebody out, we've got a local partner service who are dealing with them all the time anyway, and check it out. Is this happening or not? And then, the last thing is making sure they are continuing to do these things. And we'll do that by surveying our consumers. Pretty easy thing.

You know, if a hotel says they have a pool, but they don't have a pool, we'll find out pretty quickly. Well, it works the same way with this. If a hotel is doing things like LED lighting, and we said, OK, you're doing LED lighting, and later on, we survey consumers, and they say, hey, these people don't have LED lights, they've got those old incandescent ones, we'll find that out pretty fast. And then, we'll have to deal with the hoteliers and see what we can do about fixing that.

- So there's no cost to you, the company, right, Glenn, to institute this badge? I know you've got a couple of other badges, too, called the Travel Proud and Travel Worker-Friendly. Tell us a little bit about that. But I'm also just wondering if there's any cost related to this as you follow up with these properties to make sure what they're promising is what they're actually offering.

GLENN FOGEL: Yeah, so actually, you know, we're going through our budget for 2022 right now, and I'm seeing the amount of money we're putting the work in sustainability. And actually, it's not cheap. Sure, we're not actually helping to bring in the LED lighting for the hotel, but what we are doing is we have people who are employees who are working on this, working with the hoteliers, coming up with all of these plans.

And then, again, there's the whole issue of trying to do these algorithms-- figure out who fits it, who doesn't fit it or not. You know, we just spent a lot of money with a consulting company called EY Parthenon, and we put out a whole bit about accommodation and sustainability, and how are we going to get to 2050? How are we going to get to that net zero goal that everybody knows we have to get to?

And we put that out. You know, it's gonna cost 760 billion euros, apparently, is what this consultancy said to try and get the whole accommodations industry to get to net zero by 2050. A lot of money. We're working with them. And that's what we're doing, because we know how important this is. That's why we're doing it.

- And sir, I just wanted to ask you really quickly, you know, it's a great idea. I don't know why anyone didn't come up with the concept before this. But what sort of consideration for sustainability is there when considering a hotel stay or a travel stay right now? And is it younger people who are more interested in a sustainable-type environment, older people? Or is it across the board?

GLENN FOGEL: Well, there certainly is a tilt. I think we've all seen surveys, we see a little tilt towards more younger people. Of course, that kind of makes sense since the problem is they're gonna be on Earth-- older people? Like, I'm almost 60 years old.

You know, how long am I gonna be here? Who knows? But certainly, if you're only 20, you've got a long way to go. You really need to have an Earth that's gonna be able to be lived in. So that's why they may have a little more incentive to do it.

But for everybody, I think we all have an incentive to make this a better place, make the world a better place. And that's why we're doing it. And you know, some, for the hoteliers, they're doing it not only because they can get more customers, but also, it can actually make their operating margins better. And I'll go back to that same example I just gave about LED lighting. Sure, it's a little bit more of an investment up front, yes. Put some more cash out to get LED lighting versus the old style lighting. But over time, you'll save money, because it's gonna cost less, because you use less electricity.

And that's something that we think we can help the hoteliers. Now, we can do the right thing. Not only can you get more customers, but you can actually have better operating margins.

- You know, Glenn, the last time we spoke was just a few weeks ago when you came out with your better-than-expected quarterly results, and that was as more travel restrictions were easing-- here in the US, as well. And I'm just curious. We're a few weeks into this quarter now. What are you seeing? Is it keeping pace with your expectations?

GLENN FOGEL: Well, you know, one of the things we talked about when we did the earnings calls, we saw some hot spots in terms of COVID infections rising in certain parts of the world, particularly in Europe. And I don't know if you've been following the news, but it's actually-- it's a little disconcerting. It's disappointing. You know, we were all hoping to have sort of a linear recovery.

But if you read the news, you see that the Netherlands recently came out with some new rules about masks. And you see Austria has some new rules. And we talked in the earnings call about Germany, Italy, Russia. So it's a little disappointing.

And even in the US, I don't know if you noticed, but the rate of infections has actually started to go up again. And that, obviously, is not helpful to anybody. So the thing I continue to stress, how important it is that everybody gets a vaccination. And if you've already gotten your two vaccinations, think, am I ready for my booster yet or not? That's how we're gonna get out of this, an the quicker we get out of this pandemic, the better it is for the travel industry.

- All right, Glenn Fogel is CEO of Booking Holdings. Thanks so much. We appreciate you stopping by.

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