’s Glenn Fogel: ‘Every day we have to fight for customers’


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It is summer, and Glenn Fogel is planning a trip. The itinerary is simple: he’ll fly from the US to Amsterdam, meet his wife, who has been touring Europe, and spend the weekend in Belgium. Then, Fogel says, “she’ll fly back and I’ll have fun in Brussels”.

“Fun” may be a joke. Fogel is chief executive of global online travel service provider Booking Holdings and its biggest subsidiary and he has plenty of business reasons to visit the Belgian capital. is haggling with the European Commission over a planned takeover of Swedish online flight-booking company Etraveli. It is pushing back against commission plans to categorise as a “gatekeeper” of the internet, which would subject it to new legislation aimed at restraining Big Tech.

Fogel has to tread a fine line. On the one hand, he clearly aims to make bigger and techier than ever; on the other, he argues forcefully that the company is just one small operator in a vast travel market.

“The idea that we would have any sense of dominant position is not correct . . . in terms of the total travel industry, we’re a very small player,” he says, stabbing the conference table at Booking’s Connecticut headquarters with his finger.

“Every day we have to fight to try and get bookings. And if we don’t fight for the best for the consumers and our partner travel suppliers, that business will go somewhere else. It just takes one click.”

The latest fight for the company is to resolve complaints about payment delays it has recently received from some hosts in the UK. blames the problems on planned system maintenance and says payments are almost complete.

Fogel’s muscular management style is grounded in early adversity. Aged 17, he suffered a stroke. At 61, he still approaches each day with a relentless drive, beginning with a dawn exercise regime, influenced by his recovery from that teenage trauma. When searching hotels on, his priority is “great gyms”.

His explanation of his purpose as CEO is plucked word-for-word from the corporate website. Apart from marriage and children, Fogel says, travel makes up “the memories that flood your mind”. But planning a trip is more difficult than it needs to be.

“Our mission is to make it easier for everybody in the world to experience the world,” he says. “We believe that this can be done. It’s taking longer than I’d like, but we’re making progress, and that’s why I do what I do.”

When Fogel arrived at the company from Wall Street back in 2000, Booking Holdings was still called Priceline, one of the stars of the first dotcom boom. Soon after his arrival that online bubble burst, nearly wiping Priceline out. Fogel is sanguine about the bad timing: it proved, he says, that he “should not be a trader, having just top-ticked the internet trade and gone long [on the] internet at the peak”.

Working first in corporate development, then strategy, Fogel helped shape the company into an owner of multiple internet platforms, including the comparison apps OpenTable, for restaurants, Agoda, for hotels in Asia, Kayak for flights,, and the original Priceline US discount travel platform. still accounts for about 80 to 90 per cent of the overall business, helping the group to $17.1bn of revenues last year, against $10.7bn in 2016, the year before Fogel became chief executive.

In the process, Fogel has become one of the best-paid chief executives in the industry. After a bounce back from the pandemic, a record 896mn room nights were reserved on Booking platforms in 2022. Fogel’s rewards have also rebounded since 2020, when he received $7.15mn. In 2021, his total pay was $54mn and last year $30.8mn.

A day in the life of Glenn Fogel

6am In my basement, which has weights, a stationary bike and a TV so I can watch CNBC’s Squawk Box. I work out and, when on the bike, deal with emails from Asia and Europe.

7.30am Drive myself to HQ in Norwalk, Connecticut, which can take anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour. I will usually listen to Bloomberg, a podcast or an audiobook, or take business calls with someone in Asia or Europe. 

9am-noon Meetings. Many are regularly recurring but there will always be something new popping up.

Noon-1pm Lunch! I try my best to concentrate on eating healthy. I am not always successful. At HQ in Amsterdam, I always sit down at one of the three cafés — it is great to hear what’s on people’s minds.

1pm-6pm Similar to the morning but focused on the Americas.

Driving home I try to use the time to learn (audiobooks or podcasts), but I will also make calls to family and friends.

After dinner Catch up on unfinished business. Maybe watch a movie or TV series with my wife and end by picking one from the long list of books I want to read.

I try to get to bed by 11pm. Much of being a global CEO means you are not at HQ. So far this year I have slept in my home bed less than half the time.

Booking now lists some of the world’s largest technology companies as actual and potential competitors. “Twenty-three years I’ve been here and we’ve been fighting some giants,” says Fogel.

But it is one thing to go up against Google or Alibaba’s travel platforms, quite another to face the same regulatory curbs as Big Tech. At least that is how Fogel hopes the commission will read the situation, even as expands.

A few days after our interview, announced that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant it had not yet reached the user threshold above which it must notify the commission that it falls under its “gatekeeper presumption”. By the end of 2023 it almost certainly will.

The goal of rapid growth through technology is consistent with’s history. In a recent highly critical book about the company by three Dutch investigative journalists, called The Machine, the group’s early success is attributed to secret software known as the “Experiment Tool”, which allowed it to test improvements to the site at scale.

The book depicts Fogel as an obsessive boss with “a fanatical work ethic”, who imposed a US corporate culture on the freer-wheeling Dutch subsidiary, and has never been afraid to exploit hotels’ dependency on the platform.

Any suggestion the company’s relationship with hotels is a one-way street irritates Fogel. “There’s no rule that says you have to give inventory to,” he says. He lists a range of services, from marketing via its website in more than 40 languages, to handling customer complaints. “We’ll do all that stuff. I won’t charge you anything. Not a pence, not a cent. But if we provide you with a customer that you get revenue [from], we would like to get a commission. How about that? Seems like a fair deal. Yet some regulators think, ‘Oh no, no, I don’t know about this.’”

The 2023 equivalent of the Experiment Tool is generative artificial intelligence. and Priceline are rolling out beta versions of trip planners to US customers this summer using Google AI tools. Fogel hopes the sites will ultimately replicate and improve on what customers used to expect from travel agents.

AI should be able to recreate that exact thing . . . How you get to the airport; the flight; how you get from the airport when you land to where you’re staying . . . all the things you want to do there,” he says. “If anything goes wrong, [it will be able to] fix it. Or even better [say], ‘Oh we think there’s going to be a problem there . . . and fix that before you even know what’s going to happen.” 

He is less comfortable speculating about what this might mean for Booking Holding’s 20,000 staff. Fogel had to cut employee numbers sharply during the first year of the pandemic. Having been abruptly laid off from Wall Street more than two decades ago, he says he knows how “horrible” it feels to be on the receiving end.

“You make the decision that you’re going to end up having to let go 7,000 people who hadn’t done anything wrong at all. In fact, they’d done some pretty darn good work. And it’s not their fault.”

Fogel acknowledges he has a responsibility as chief executive to help staff retrain for an AI era.

But he adds “that doesn’t mean . . . there will be jobs for everybody all the time . . . My role as CEO is not to create an NGO and support people who are no longer able to contribute to the good of the whole.” 

Two side-effects of the pandemic are fuelling the next phase of growth. One is the desire of travellers to book individual homes and apartments, an area where the company goes toe to toe with Airbnb. Another is flexible working: “Somebody says, ‘Well, I don’t have to be in the office. So that Thursday and Friday we can go somewhere and I’ll work from somewhere else’ — and we’ll put ‘work’ in quotes.”

As a facilitator of global tourism, Fogel risks being tarred as an accomplice to climate change and the destruction of the vision he promotes. The group is trying to respond with a “travel sustainable” programme that encourages hotels and homeowners to adopt environmentally friendly practices such as using renewable energy or cutting single-use plastic toiletries.

“The mission to make it easier for everybody to experience the world is kind of hollow if there’s not a world worth experiencing, right?” the chief executive says. “We’ve got to do our part too.”

So is Fogel preparing for a future in which people travel less far, because they want to save the planet? No, says the man at the controls of the Booking machine. He puts his faith in “engineering, technology, [and] ingenuity” to solve environmental challenges such as aircraft emissions.

“People are going to actually travel the same as they’ve been travelling,” he says. “Perhaps — I don’t know, I haven’t really modelled it out — even further.”

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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